EPD's response to enquiries on impact of proposed regulation of disposable plastic tableware and other plastic products on retail sector


     In response to media enquiries about the impact of proposed regulation of disposable plastic tableware and other plastic products on the retail sector, a spokesman for the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) today (May 3) said the following:

In order to reduce the use of disposable plastic tableware and other plastic products so as to reduce the impact of plastic pollution on marine ecology and human health and to mitigate climate change, the EPD and the Council for Sustainable Development launched public consultation on Scheme on Regulation of Disposable Plastic Tableware in July 2021 and control of single-use plastics in September 2021 respectively. During the consultation period, more than 30 briefings, public forums, focus group meetings and so on were held to collect opinions on the proposed regulation scheme from the public, the trade and various stakeholders which include the catering industry, catering suppliers, green groups, medical sector, retail sector, wholesale sector, chambers of commerce, recycling sector and other professional bodies. Following the consultation period, we continued to keep close communication with the major stakeholders. As far as the retail sector is concerned, the department participated in two seminars held by the Hong Kong Retail Management Association last October and November to brief them on the content and updates on the proposed regulation, with a view to helping them understand the regulation and learning their readiness for the implementation.

We noticed that the catering and retail sectors generally have no objection to the proposed first phase control of single-use plastic products. As for the disposable plastic tableware (i.e. cups, cup lids, food containers and food container lids) proposed to be regulated in the second phase, there are plastic-free alternatives available for containing hot drinks and hot food (details can be found on EPD's Green Tableware Platform launched in November last year: www.greentableware.hk). Taking into consideration that the price gap between those alternatives and the disposable plastic products is relatively large and the number of suppliers is still relatively limited, it is proposed to introduce a full control in the second phase. As for the non-medical transparent rubber gloves proposed to be controlled in the second phase, they can be replaced by latex gloves, while plastic dental floss picks can also be replaced by ordinary dental floss. We will continue to listen to the opinions on the substitutability of these two single-use plastic products. We will also continue to monitor the development of the market when considering the time to implement the second phase regulation.

To allow more time for the community to get ready for the implementation of the scheme, we suggest that the first phase regulation commence six months (two-quarter adaptation period) after the passage of the Amendment Bill. In fact, we have all along been encouraging retailers to avoid selling disposable plastic products and suggesting the catering industry and retailers to get prepared as early as possible, even without the Government's regulation. We also noticed that more and more food premises and large supermarkets had gradually changed to use or sell non-plastic products recently, such as paper straw and wooden knife and fork, in order to reduce the use of disposable plastic products. Apart from the effort in environmental protection, it also helps the public develop a habit of "plastic free" in their daily lives.

Ends/Wednesday, May 3, 2023
Issued at HKT 23:18