Big efforts are small steps towards a zero-plastic HK

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Hong Kong environmental groups drive initiatives to ditch plastic use.

Photo: Cucumbers in plastic (Coles supermarket) by Anna Gregory from Flickr Creative Commons

Worldwide interest of going zero-waste, which largely involves eradicating single-use plastics, has reached Hong Kong. The government currently has no policies in place that restrict the distribution of plastics in retail environments, and many eco-conscious groups in the city are hoping to change that.

One such group is Greeners Action, a charitable group made of members who volunteer their time to engage the public with social environmental topics. The group conducted a survey with 900 participants over the course of March to May with questions on plastic use for wrapping their fruits and vegetables at the grocery store. The results show that over 70% of the survey participants think that supermarkets over-package their produce while 9 out of 10 would rather purchase their produce without the packaging. Some survey participants said they would like to smell or touch the items before buying; the fact that the wrapping often just goes straight into the garbage after taking the produce out is yet another reason they would prefer just purchasing their food without it. Greeners Action spokesperson Vicki Wong suggested markets to add plastic-free sections to their stores and make amendments to their packaging policy so less material goes to waste. Changes also need to be made at the government level, such as legally restricting the packaging of fresh foods. Taiwan has already made a move on completely banning single-use plastics and disposable utensils by 2030.

In an effort to lower use of disposable utensils, “Plastic-Free Takeaway, Use Reusable Tableware” is a program started by the Environmental Campaign Committee and the Environmental Protection Department. Once a customer has collected six stickers (whereby one sticker is acquired each time they order takeout without taking disposable utensils) from participating eateries, they are rewarded with either a reusable stainless steel cutlery set or a gift/offer to a restaurant or catering business. Thanks to this initiative, approximately 2.4 million sets of tableware have been saved. The hopes of this program is that it will aid with the legislation of future proposals focused on phasing out disposable tableware.

Hong Kong still has a long way to go to reach the plastic-free ideal, but these recent efforts prove that it is possible to decrease the use of plastic and single-use items. This reduction not only increases mindfulness around unnecessary waste, but it contributes to the betterment of the environment as a whole.

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