(22 March, 2021)
An article by the Green Earth
Translated by Ecolusion
The Panel on Environmental Affairs held a public consultation to discuss the responsibilities of plastic bottle manufacturers. Six environmental groups recycled 100 bottles and pushed for a movement saying " 10 cents per bottle is not enough to act as an incentive, only 10 dollars for 100 bottles will make a difference" outside the Legislative Council to raise a petition to the government. Urging the government to act on three distinct levels. One, to increase the deposit of plastic bottles. Two, to regulate paper packaged beverage boxes. Three, to legislate the globally-accepted bottle deposit refund system.
According to the environmental bureau as well as experiences from Hong Kong and other countries, the bottle deposit-return system can have a significant impact on consumer's behaviour in 2018. However, the documents of the consultation suggest changing the original idea into a rebate system. The consultation states that the current system has inadequate plastic recycling systems and a system must be set in place to increase the recycling rate of plastic bottles in HK, proposing that for each bottle returned, 10 cents is rebated. Environment groups question that the rebate of 10 cents lacks scientific support and it doesn't provide an incentive for the middle class and upper class to take action.
There is a huge difference between the rebate system and the bottle deposit refund system, but the government combining both ideas is clearly seen as a straw-man fallacy. The deposit-return system requires consumers to pay the deposit when they buy a plastic bottled beverage, and the refund system can only function if consumers return the bottle and is only available when the consumers return the bottle. Even if the government increases the rebate, it only increases the incentive for consumers to return the bottle, thereby not suffering any form of financial loss.
In the current HK beverage market, paper packaged beverage boxes take up 17% of all materials, forming the second most used material. In terms of support, the government has continually supported recyclers of paper beverages, and is planning to construct a pulp mill in the near future. The government should seize this opportunity to regulate other beverage containers to fully utilise recycling plants and increase the total recycling rate in a holistic manner.
Environmental groups are also urging the government not to veer from its original intention to reduce plastic waste. In other words, to treat the matter seriously, without levity and not to waste this opportunity in favour of administrative convenience. At the same time, they urge the public to inform the government about their opinions on matters such as the bottle deposit refund system and the regulation of other packaged beverage boxes before the public consultation ends on 21st May.
Eco Drive HK