On 24 May Swedish Chamber of Commerce Hong Kong launched the position paper: ‘Plastic waste – a call for action’, with opening remarks from Consul General Helena Storm.
The Swedish Chamber of Commerce is thereby raising plastic waste as an issue that needs urgent action in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Government is called upon to refine its policies in this area, and to intensify its work with concerned stakeholders and society as a whole.
Its purpose is to drive change to make Hong Kong a regional leader, in innovative and responsible management of plastic waste, by influencing and accelerating Government decision-making on this issue, with the support of the wider Hong Kong business community.
This is an opportunity for Hong Kong to take regional leadership and further enhance its position Asia’s World City. In doing so, quality of life for Hong Kong residents will be improved and business opportunities will be created, states the white paper.
Since the beginning of 2017, the Sustainability Committee of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce has been focusing its work on plastic waste. In October 2017, a round table was organised around the topic of reducing, collecting, sorting and recycling plastic waste in Hong Kong. Around 30 stakeholders from the Government, academia, NGOs and the business community were gathered for the discussion. This was followed up with a number of smaller niched meetings to obtain more in-depth information from key stakeholders.
The position paper outlines the observations they have made during this process, coupled with suggestions on firm actions they would like to see from the Government to battle the escalating problem of plastic waste.
Headlined ‘Take a lead for change’ there recommended actions are as follows:
a) Ban single-use plastics: Be firmer about reducing single-use plastic. Only the Government can make a real difference when it comes to reducing single-use plastic, through an outright ban. An incentive based approach such as reverse vending machine solutions for plastic bottles could have the same effect.
b) Accelerate the introduction of an effective fee for waste to landfill: There must be an effective fee; otherwise there will never be a business case for recycling. Legislate around companies’ responsibility for the disposal of the plastic packaging they produce and discard. Combined with an outright ban on plastics to landfill, or in the least a considerable fee, this would mean that e.g.’ supermarkets have to reduce the amount of plastic used in their daily’ operations. The planned MSW charge needs to help the public reduce their waste and encourage and incentivise correct recycling behaviour from both businesses and households.
c) Boost demand for recycled plastic: Boosting demand for recycled plastic needs to be reinforced through producer responsibility legislation around minimum recycled content, requirements on density, colour and/or taxing virgin material. Also, support businesses who repurpose plastics and make use of that raw material, through for example funding, land and/or real estate and legislation.
Furthermore, the Swedish chamber recommends building a strong recycling industry through four key initiatives: Support separation at source with better disposal infrastructure, Compensate recyclers for collection, Coordinate collection of recyclables by districts, and
Invest in proper Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs)
SwedCham Hong Kong also realises the need to rethink the status quo:
Reclassify plastic waste
Consider the opportunity cost of not having an effective recycling system for plastics in place. The impact of not taking proper care of plastic waste is already dire and will only exacerbate over time. Therefore, rethink plastic waste and re-classify it as a special waste category, as proliferation of plastic waste in our environment (especially our marine environment) poses a health threat to Hong Kong citizens. This is a radical move but one that would pave the way for real change and a comprehensive program of reduce (bans), reuse and recycle (e.g. reverse vending machines coupled with effective producer responsibility schemes).
Educate the public on reducing, proper sorting and clean recycling
The Mainland has already outlined its circular economy ambitions and the Hong Kong business community is also taking responsibility. The Swedish Chamber has taken the lead on a pledge to eliminate plastic bottles and cups from the workplace.
“Over 70 members, large and small, have already signed the pledge and other chambers of commerce are following suit. We see the above actions as crucial steps for the Hong Kong Government to take leadership on the plastic waste issue. It is a splendid opportunity for the Government to make sure Hong Kong truly stays and evolves as ‘Asia’s World