Over the past 12 months or so, across the world we have seen a tidal wave of discussion and some notable action on stemming the steady flow of plastic waste into our oceans, despite the crisis being evident for many years.
Although invented as recently as the late 19th century, plastics are now ubiquitous and have plunged our once pristine oceans into crisis: polluting seas; killing marine life; and coming back to haunt us as micro particles in the fish we eat.
The good news is, not only that global action is gaining momentum, but that Hong Kong’s community has joined the fight.
On December 6th 2018, the Single Use Beverage Packaging Working Group (SUBPWG) launched its Drink Without Waste positioning paper, outlining strategies and actions to address the increasing mountain of waste from sealed single use beverage containers in Hong Kong.
Across the city we throw away 5.2 million bottles every day. On the current course, by 2030 the numbers will swell to over 2 billion units per year.
Recovery rates however are dismal and much lower than many countries around the world, amounting to 9% for PET and 0% for liquid cartons. The majority of this waste ends up in our landfills, with an un-quantified volume evidentially ending up as litter and marine pollution.
A collaboration of waste recyclers, NGOs and leading beverage producer and bottlers that represent nearly half of bottled water and soft drinks sold in Hong Kong – the SUBPWG is both a welcome and unique initiative. The creation of the Group is also timely, with the government currently examining the possibility of introducing producer responsibility schemes for plastic bottles.
The Working Group is rightly ambitious, advocating for a circular economy where used packaging has a market value that incentivises recovery, recycling and re-use. It has pledged to work towards 70%-90% recovery rates for PET containers and liquid cartons by 2025. The SUBPWG clearly state that the key to success will be working closely together: government, producers, retailers, recyclers and consumers. Although not new, its key strategies and actions are clear and logical and apply to us all – as consumers, as industry and as NGOs.
- Reduce single-use packaging: Install beverage dispensers. Bring your own bottle.
- Redesign single-use packaging: Regulate packaging standards.
- Recover single-use packaging: Implement a cash-on-return scheme.
- Recycle single-use packaging: Build state-of-the-art recycling facilities.
As such, the Working Group is asking that we all take action and pledge support and commitment to the four Drink Without Waste Strategies and Actions.
ADMCF is an active Single Use Beverage Packaging Working Group member and part of the Drink Without Waste Initiative’s secretariat.