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Bottle them up! The risk of consumer plastics
Richard PyneReporterEnglish News & Current AffairsRadio Television Hong Kong
18th Consumer Rights Reporting Awards
Sustainable Consumption Award
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Hong Kong throws away more than 200 tonnes of plastic bottles each day, and most of them are flowing into the city’s already bursting landfills and polluted waters.

Recycling levels for plastic have also been dropping, and the mainland – the destination for much of Hong Kong’s waste – has put in place new curbs that mean collecting, sorting and exporting plastic bottles is more costly and labour-intensive. Demand from recyclers and exporters for waste plastic bottles has been reduced even further.

So is it time to start reducing this type of waste with a total ban?

Tracey Read is the founder of Plastic Free Seas, an NGO that conducts beach clean-ups and educates young people about the dangers of plastic pollution.

“We cannot keep going the way we are as a species. This is insanity, the amount of plastics we are using for everything, it’s completely unsustainable,” she said. “So we need to get people to start thinking about the consequences of each action that we’re taking, each purchase, and do we really need to have this in plastic?"

RTHK also spoke to representatives from the University of Hong Kong and Polytechnic University, which have taken proactive steps to reduce the amount of plastic bottles that are used on campus.

"So plastic is harmful to human health and the environment, and we are aware of our impact. Plastic waste is a very important component of the waste at HKU, and we feel that introducing such ban and policy will help the community to respond to our request to reduce plastic waste,” said Joy Lam, from HKU’s Sustainability Office.

The Environmental Protection Department told RTHK there are internal government guidelines to reduce plastic waste. For example, serving water in glasses instead of plastic bottles at meetings and events.

Over 100 drinking fountains have been installed at waterfront venues around the city to encourage people to use reusable bottles. Twenty million dollars is being set aside to help recyclers meet those new plastic waste import requirements from the mainland. And there are plans for the centralised collection of plastic bottles from community recycling centres.

They’re also studying the feasibility of a producer-responsibility scheme for waste plastic bottles.