5 Key Takeaways from Wading Through Plastics: The what, why and how of dealing with single use plastics in HK

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From bags to food containers and clothing, plastic is a significant part of our everyday lives. Its durability has made it the commodity of convenience over the last few decades. But its greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. The immortality of plastic has made it an environmental hazard and a major global challenge.

Last year, companies around the world moved to ban single-use plastics like straws and beverage packaging. But since plastic is found in a bevy of things, ranging from toothbrushes to spacecraft, the solution to plastic waste is not simple and straightforward.

The American Chamber of Commerce brought together a range of experts from various sectors at our event ‘Wading Through Plastics’ to discuss answers to the most pressing questions concerning the future of plastics. Experts from various sectors approached the topic from a range of perspectives.

Here are five key takeaways:

  1. According to the Drinking Without Waste report by Deliotte China, over 1 billion packaged beverages were consumed in Hong Kong alone in 2017. More than 1.7 billion drink containers ended up as waste last year, either in landfills or as litter.
  2. There is a need for greater public awareness on where recycled waste actually ends up.
    “The elephant in the room is no one really knows where their recycling is actually going,” says Hannah Routh, Partner at Deloitte China. Routh also highlighted how difficult it is to get data on where Hong Kong’s recycling ends up. 
  3. According to Phillip Li from HK Recycles, one of the biggest challenges when it comes to recycling in Hong Kong is the issue of collection. Improper separation and contamination of recyclables increases the cost of recycling because more resources are needed to separate and clean the collectibles.
  4. The disposal of food waste in plastic bags is also a major issue. Plastic packaging has a complex impact on food waste, and in some ways could be increasing waste. 
  5. Chemical recycling could reduce the proportion of plastic waste which ends up in landfill or incineration. This process transforms plastic waste into a raw material which can be used to create chemical products.