Implement legislation to curb the use of disposable plastic items
Launched: 19 April 2018
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Plastic pollution is a huge problem worldwide. Every year, tonnes of plastic waste are disposed of into our oceans. Hong Kong is no stranger to this, and some of you may even remember the 2012 plastic pellet spill that mobilised thousands of Hong Kong citizens to help clean up. Now, we hope to mobilise you again, to take action against plastic waste and tackle the problem at the source.
April 22nd is Earth Day. Since it went global in 1990, the size of events has continued to grow. Now, over 1 billion people participate in Earth Day events around the world, making it the largest civic observance ever. The focus of Earth Day 2018 is plastic pollution, highlighting the importance of the plastic problem. Today, plastic pollution is threatening the survival of our planet in various, severe ways, including polluting the environment, disrupting human hormones and destroying marine ecosystem.
Our city has a very visible plastic problem in both the urban and rural environment. Many beaches suffering from large quantities of waste washed onto shore from the sea, but 80% of it originates from land-based activity. Sometimes, up to 75% of this litter is made up of disposable plastics like cutlery and bottles. Plastic also makes up more than 2/3 of marine litter in Hong Kong. To change this, we need to reduce the amount of plastic litter at the source.
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There are many ways that the government and businesses can promote source reduction of plastics; one of the most obvious is targeting disposables, as they are single-use and therefore are disposed of in huge amounts daily. Worldwide, governments have taken steps to reduce plastic waste; in France, disposable plastic tableware will be banned in 2020. In Taiwan, a rolling ban will be imposed on plastic straws in 2019, followed by free disposable bags, food containers, and utensil in 2020, and ultimately, a blanket ban on all single-use items in 2030.
The majority of Hong Kong citizens still use plastic utensils and straws when dining out. Yet most do not use plastic bags, showing the effectiveness of government measures (in this case, the plastic bag levy) in supporting sustainable behaviours. Internationally, disposable plastic items have been dealt with in various ways. Disposable plastics are not a necessity but a convenience that has consequences that far outweigh the advantage of being single-use. Therefore, we urge the Hong Kong Government to implement legislations that will curb the use of disposable plastic items, borrowing suitable policies from around the world as references.
The actions taken by other governments show that disposable plastics are not a necessity but a convenience that has consequences that far outweigh their advantage; a few minutes of use for us results in a lifetime on our earth for that piece of plastic. We citizens understand our environmental impact and wish to make environmentally-positive lifestyle changes. The transition, however, must be facilitated by government-business co-operation, such that sustainable behaviours are easy and convenient to adopt, and so that we as individuals do not feel alone in our efforts to reduce plastic waste. There are numerous ways we can modify our lifestyle habits – using reusable water bottles and carrying metal or other non-disposable cutlery sets – but in order for change to happen at a meaningful scale in tackling the plastic waste problem, there must be top-down influence in changing the consumption habits of the society. Therefore, we ask that the government act on business practices via policy to set an example for citizens to follow, and the result will benefit us all – a cleaner city that is less wasteful and more sustainable.