Listen to #Hashtag Hong Kong every Sunday morning at 8.15
Focussing on issues affecting civil society, we'll hear from representatives of NGOs, associations, statutory bodies, and non-profit groups.
(Sundays 8.15am - 8.25am)
I am Leanne Tam from Greenpeace East Asia.
Every day, Hong Kong people rush through work, afraid of losing to others only one tiny step behind. Takeaway coffee for breakfast and fast food takeaways to fight for more time to work? Without realizing it, this lifestyle eats us up. If you ever take a step back, you'll notice our environment is filled with rubbish. In 2021,The average daily quantity of solid waste disposed of at landfills was over 11,000 tonnes, a 18 percent increase compared to 10 years ago. The daily per capita was 1.53kg in 2021. It is definitely a number 1 compared to other East Asia well developed cities, like Taipei, Tokyo, and Seoul, where their per capita waste disposal rate is around or less than 1kg.
Taipei, Tokyo and Seoul all had implemented a waste charging scheme in their city years ago. While for Hong Kong, the municipal solid waste charging had been “discussed” for 17 years, the policy will finally be in place on 1st April next year.
The year 2024 is a critical year in making substantial progress in addressing the waste crisis in the city. Other than waste charging, the first phase on the regulation of disposable plastic tableware will also be executed in April 2024. There will be a full ban on foam food containers and cutlery, no more disposable plastic tableware allowed for dine-in restaurants and no more plastic-straw, cutlery for takeaway.
While waste charging and regulation on plastic tableware would probably be two crucial policies driving forces on waste reduction. But back to the basics, paying money while continuously throwing away disposable items doesn't mean solving the waste problem. Waste that ends up in landfills, burned in the air, or leaks into the natural environment still generates harmful chemicals and greenhouse gasses and environmental pollution. Most importantly, pollution does not happen when you throw, but it begins at the production stage of the single-use items. From oil extraction to plastic manufacturing and packaging, they have already consumed various environmental resources and caused pollution. Reducing waste at source is the root cause solution that truly tackles the waste problem.
Take a look at policies in other countries and regions, using regulation and incentive promoting REUSE to completely phase out single-use items is paramount important. To avoid the issue of simply shifting from plastic to paper, bamboo, or other single-use materials without effectively addressing the waste problem.
Greenpeace believes phasing out the unnecessary packaging is the key. For primary packaging, we can make good use of technology and product design to establish a circular packaging system. This can be achieved by implementing a reusable and returnable packaging to phase out the linear single-use packaging system. To demonstrate the possibility and feasibility of the reuse system, Greenpeace launched the Borrow and Return Cup Program in 2022, enabling customers to borrow reuse cups from over 35 cafes. Reuse cup is introduced to the Hong Kong community through a mobile app. Customers can order takeaway coffee in a reuse cup, and return the cup to any partnering cafe within the network. The program so far saved over 8,000 disposable cups, with a return rate of 99%. Not only receiving positive feedback from the F & B sector and customers, also demonstrating that environmental-friendly and convenience are not mutually exclusive.
To further reveal the environmental potential of reuse systems through scientific research, Greenpeace conducted a Life-cycle assessment of single-use and reuse cup systems. The assessment aimed to calculate the environmental impact generated throughout the entire life cycle of these cups, from production, transportation, use to final disposal.
The study found that the production stage of disposable cup systems accounts for the lion's share of emissions. Even using recycled plastic as raw material input for disposable plastic cups cannot change the significantly large amounts of natural resources consumed and the array of adverse emissions caused during the production process.
This study proved that reuse cups are more resource-efficient and cause less pollution, compared to paper cups and recycled plastic cups. Greenpeace invites chain restaurants in Hong Kong to implement reuse systems, to shoulder corporate responsibility and proactively address the second phase of disposable plastic tableware regulations. The government should also relocate more resources on reuse rather than solely relying on recycling as the ultimate solution to the waste issue. Let’s join hands and unlock the environmental potential of reuse systems, working together to make our city greener for a sustainable future.
Now I’d like to dedicate this song Fix you by Coldplay to all of you.