Kicking the plastic bottle sends the wrong message for a “green” Hong Kong

The decision by the HKSAR Government to delay, again, municipal waste charging undermines the aspiration for green credentials. A global Green Finance Hub unable to manage our own waste? It also reveals industry capture of policy making which bodes ill for the future.

Decades in the making, the 2021 amendment to the Waste Disposal Ordinance would charge the average household HK$33-55 per month. Now the proverbial plastic bottle has been kicked, until April 2024 at the earliest.

Public awareness of plastic waste has never been higher. Delegates from 169 countries met in Paris last month seeking to agree a global plastic treaty. Microplastics are found from the remote Arctic to the intimate placenta carrying unborn babies.

Hongkongers collectively throw 2,700 tons of plastic every day. Landfills will be full by 2026, maybe earlier. Yet, recycling companies like New Life Plastics can apparently not secure sufficient feedstock. Do we really need to import someone else’s waste to run our state-of-the-art facilities?

Waste charging is not simply about reducing pressure on landfills. It is forcing behaviour change to consume less, not relying on vague notions of good-will. It may be counterintuitive for Hong Kong, but we need to change with the times.

Financial incentives change behaviour. Switzerland’s waste sorting law increased recycling seven-fold in 50 years. Our team at The Global Institute For Tomorrow (GIFT) produced a bold proposal in Bali, where villagers get paid to separate waste and feed the circular economy. In Hong Kong, given our cost base, we need to pay if we do not.

Click here to read about the Clean Bali Fund – could Hong Kong get some inspiration?

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