Change is coming to the way Hong Kong manages its trash. The ban on disposable plastic tableware that is currently being debated will likely become reality soon, following on the heels of the waste-charging scheme, which was passed in September.
At the Chamber, we welcome these regulations as part of Hong Kong’s efforts to improve the living environment for local people, as well as playing our role to cut pollution globally.
But such new laws mean that some businesses will have to be prepared for considerable change in the way they operate. Restaurants in Hong Kong will be the first to face the ban on plastic items, and they will have to consider the cost implications, weigh the pros and cons of the various alternatives, while keeping their customers happy.
It is also likely that more regulatory changes on single-use plastic are on the way. While the current proposals only affect tableware such as plastic cutlery, boxes and lids, it seems likely that the number of banned products will be expanded in the years to come, which will affect many more sectors and companies.
This will present challenges for businesses and citizens alike. While cutting waste is a global issue, space-starved Hong Kong faces more hurdles than most cities. We do not have spacious car parks to host recycling drop-off centres, nor can we arrange kerbside pick-up from individual buildings, as happens in less densely populated regions around the world.
The Government, business community and citizens will all have to work together to find solutions to these issues. Here at the Chamber, for example, we stopped serving drinks in plastic bottles at our roundtable events a few years ago. Your copy of the Bulletin is now delivered in eco-friendly materials. We also encourage staff to think sustainably about how they work on a day-to-day basis, such as not printing unnecessarily and bringing their own reusable lunchbox and cutlery.
The global issues of climate change, pollution and waste can seem overwhelming, but taking manageable steps such as reducing plastic is something we can all do. In fact, there is a high level of support from among our members for these moves towards more sustainability.
Although there may be upfront costs involved in the transition to more eco-friendly ways of operating, it is essential that Hong Kong businesses start making these changes now. Not just for the sake of protecting our environment, but also because it makes good business sense to be ahead of the curve.
This trend is not going to go away: besides the growing regulatory requirements, consumer expectations are also shifting. Many people, especially the younger generation, are asking questions about the sustainability practices of the companies that they buy from.
The time has come for us all to increase our sustainability practices, for the long-term survival of our businesses, as well as our planet.