HONG KONG – Hong Kong aims to bring forward a ban on single-use plastic tableware provided by restaurants by two years, with the first phase of the measure to be in force as early as the last quarter of 2023.

The ban was initially set to take place in 2025, but an increased public acceptance of non-plastic alternatives for disposable items has led legislators to bring the ban forward by two years to 2023.

The Environment and Ecology Bureau (EEB) in Hong Kong has proposed to enforce the ban in a paper submitted to the Legislative Committee on October 18.

The first phase will occur at the end of 2023 and prohibit the sale and use of single-use plastic tableware at restaurants, while the second phase will eliminate takeaway containers in 2025.

Hong Kong disposes of over 2,300 metric tons of plastic waste daily, with a recycling rate of 11%, according to official government figures.

To combat the city’s plastic waste problem, the EEB strives to implement the ban sooner.

“I have been following up on the timetable for plastic reduction for many years,” said lawmaker Elizabeth Quat of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.

“The government must solve the related issues as soon as possible in a multipronged manner and keep up with the pace of waste reduction around the world.”

Single-use ban

Restaurants will be barred from providing disposable plastic such as tableware, cutlery, straws and stirrers in the first phase.

On top of that, they will not be able to offer dine-in customers single-use plastic containers, typically used as takeaway boxes for excess food.

The ban will expand to any single-use plastic items used in buying takeaway food in the second phase.

The sale or free distribution of non-restaurant-related single-use plastics, such as hotel toiletries, umbrella covers, plastic cotton buds and toothbrushes, will also be prohibited at the end of 2023.

“At present, most of the suppliers in the market are already able to provide non-plastic alternatives to disposable plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery and plates that are covered by the first phase of the regulation,” said the EEB in a paper submitted to the Legislative Council.

A public consultation performed last year with around 8,000 submissions found more than 90% of participants supported regulating disposable plastic tableware.

This public interest drove Hong Kong legislators to act and enact the proposed ban sooner than planned.

“During the public consultation, there were quite some views that given many places have already been strengthening the regulation of disposable plastic tableware through legislation or other measures in recent years,” added the EEB.

Hong Kong authorities suggested a fixed penalty of HK$2,000 (US$255) for those who don’t abide by the ban.

As of now, people who breach the Product Eco-responsibility Ordinance are liable to a maximum fine of HK$100,000 (US$12,739.97).

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