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Plastic Ban Creates Dilemma for Restaurants and Customers

Plastic Ban Creates Dilemma for Restaurants and Customers

With the ban on single-use plastic fast approaching, the catering sector is actively seeking alternatives to plastic utensils for takeaway customers. However, the replacement materials have received negative feedback from customers, according to Ray Chui Man-wai, Chairman of the Institute of Dining Professionals.

Chui expressed concerns about the density of alternative materials, stating that they are not as reliable as plastic and may lead to leaks of drinks and sauces when customers take their food away. Despite trials of paper straws and flour straws, the sector has faced customer dissatisfaction.

To address the issue, the Environmental Protection Department has provided the sector with a list of approved tableware manufacturers, and restaurants are preparing to trial new materials as early as March.

Chui acknowledged that using alternative materials will incur higher costs, potentially doubling or tripling the current expenses. However, he assured that these increased costs will not be passed on to customers.

Effective April 22, the government will ban merchants and retailers from providing or selling disposable plastic products, including plastic tableware, cotton buds, and plastic toothpicks. Violators can face a maximum penalty of HK$100,000, with the option for law enforcers to issue a fixed penalty ticket of HK$2,000.

Concerns have been raised by pharmacy unionists who claim to lack clarity on the timeline for banning cotton buds and plastic toothpicks. Cheung Tak-wing, Vice Chairman of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Pharmacy, urged the government to provide clear guidelines and expressed confidence that existing stock of these items can be cleared before implementation.

In addition to the plastic ban, Hongkongers will also be required to purchase designated bags for domestic waste disposal starting August 1, with government buildings leading the way from April 1.

Shun Chi-Ming, a member of the Council for Carbon Neutrality and Sustainable Development and former Hong Kong Observatory director, highlighted the public’s unpreparedness for the solid waste charge scheme. He noted that citizens have concerns about how much waste can be recycled and whether the scheme will alleviate the financial burden.

Shun encouraged authorities to learn from overseas experiences in waste reduction and recycling. Ken So Kwok-yin, Chief Executive of the Conservancy Association, emphasized the need for the government to enhance explanations and alleviate confusion among citizens regarding the waste charging scheme.

Subsidies of HK$10 will be provided for Hongkongers receiving Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) after the waste charging scheme takes effect on August 1.