Drink Without Waste: Re-Thinking Single-Use Plastic Beverage Packaging In HK
By Sophie le Clue 17 January, 2019
Hong Kong is facing a plastic waste crisis. ADMCF's le Clue expands on the working group set-up by corporates & NGOs
Over the past 12 months or so, across the world we have seen a tidal wave of discussion and some notable action on stemming the steady flow of plastic waste into our oceans, despite the crisis being evident for many years.
Although invented as recently as the late 19th century, plastics are now ubiquitous and have plunged our once pristine oceans into crisis: polluting seas; killing marine life; and coming back to haunt us as micro particles in the fish we eat.
Plastic waste in Hong Kong
Over 80% of the packaging used for beverages ends up as waste in Hong Kong’s landfills. In 2017 this amounted to over 1.7 billion units. On the current course, by 2030 the numbers will swell to over 2 billion units per year.
Recovery rates however are dismal & much lower than many countries around the world
Recovery rates however are dismal and much lower than many countries around the world, amounting to 9% for PET and 0% for liquid cartons. The majority of this waste ends up in our landfills, with an un-quantified volume evidentially ending up as litter and marine pollution.
The good news is, not only that global action is gaining momentum, but that Hong Kong’s community has joined the fight.
Hong Kong Single Use Beverage Packaging Working Group
In September 2017, local NGOs together with Hong Kong’s leading beverage producers and bottlers, representing nearly half of bottled water and soft drinks sold in Hong Kong, joined major retailers and the waste industry to announce the formation of the Single Use Beverage Packaging Working Group (SUBPWG).
Its goal is to work together to develop and facilitate strategies and actions to significantly reduce waste from beverage consumption arriving at landfills and polluting Hong Kong’s environment. Also, the creation of the group was timely, with the government currently examining the possibility of introducing producer responsibility schemes for plastic bottles.
The Working Group is advocating for a circular economy
The Working Group is rightly ambitious, advocating for a circular economy where used packaging has a market value that incentivises recovery, recycling and re-use. It has pledged to work towards 70%-90% recovery rates for PET containers and liquid cartons by 2025 and states that the key to success will be working together: government, producers, retailers, recyclers and consumers.
Strategies and actions
One year on in December 2018, the Working Group launched its Drink Without Waste positioning paper, outlining strategies and actions to address the increasing mountain of waste from sealed single use beverage containers in Hong Kong.
Although not new, the key strategies and actions are clear and logical and apply to us all – as consumers, as industry and as NGOs.
- Reduce single-use packaging: Install beverage dispensers. Bring your own bottle.
- Redesign single-use packaging: Regulate packaging standards.
- Recover single-use packaging: Implement a cash-on-return scheme.
- Recycle single-use packaging: Build state-of-the-art recycling facilities.
According to the group, regulations to homogenise all plastic bottles and liquid cartons allows used packaging to be processed into valuable feedstock such as PET and paper for new packaging and other products.
A levy should be collected from producers & importers to cover the cost of cash-on-return schemes
Furthermore, the group supports the HKSAR government call for cash-on-return schemes to increase recovery rates of plastic bottles and calls for these schemes to be extended to other packaging, including liquid cartons. Currently the recovery rate for used metal cans in Hong Kong is 85%, demonstrating the effectiveness of a monetary value. The group also proposes that a levy should be collected from producers and importers to cover the cost of cash-on-return schemes and to help subsidise logistics and local recycling.
Major beverage producers & corporations committing
|“Through 2019 we will complete the conversion of all our ‘Bonaqua’ Mineralised Water packaging to 100% rPET. In addition, we will launch 300 Bonaqua water stations across Hong Kong to promote the Bring Your Own Bottle Initiative.”
Neil Waters, Director and General Manager of Swire Coca-Cola Hong Kong and President of the Hong Kong Beverage Association
|“As of 2018, Airport Authority Hong Kong has installed 104 drinking fountains and 23 hot water dispensers in 13 locations throughout the terminal buildings.”
Mike Kilburn, Assistant General Manager, Sustainability at the Airport Authority Hong Kong
| “We have voluntarily taken steps to transform our packaging to 100% recycled PET material since 2015… this not only reduces the production, use and wastage of plastic, but also helps with cutting carbon emissions.”
Edmond Yu, General Manager – Marketing of A.S. Watson Industries
With momentum ramping up, the Working Group is asking that we all take action and pledge support and commitment to the four Drink Without Waste Strategies and Actions.
ADMCF is an active Single Use Beverage Packaging Working Group member and part of the Drink Without Waste Initiative’s secretariat.
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