Public consulted on regulating single-use plastics

Hongkongers have been asked to give their views on regulating single-use plastic items that are non-essential and difficult to recycle, such as umbrella bags, hotel toiletry bottles and cotton buds.

Officials also want to know if the current HK$0.5 levy on plastic shopping bags should be increased, as the level hasn’t been adjusted since the scheme was introduced in 2009.

These are some of the questions put forward by the Sustainable Development Council in a three-month public engagement exercise that began on Thursday.

The council says it’s high time to regulate single-use plastics because an estimated 2,300 tonnes of plastic are sent to landfill sites every day and they are often difficult to degrade in nature.

Council chairman, Lam Ching-choi, said people will be asked whether certain items should be subject to an outright ban, or whether their use should be regulated.

The head of the council’s strategy sub-committee Jonathan Wong, meanwhile, dismissed concerns that operational costs for businesses would increase substantially if certain plastic products are banned.

“In view of the situation in [the mainland], they are banning the use of these single-use plastics, so that means there will be alternatives available in [the mainland] probably,” he told a press conference.

“Then that will be economically viable. In that case, we can easily adopt some of the product alternatives in [the mainland] and we can use it to replace those single-use plastics in Hong Kong,” Wong said.

People have until December 29 to put forward their views to the council, which is aiming to submit its recommendations to the government in the first quarter of next year.