Many Hong Kong retailers and hotels get rid of single-use plastics: government – South China Morning Post

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More than 80 per cent of Hong Kong retailers and hotels inspected by the government have complied with the new ban on the sale or distribution of throwaway plastics, but the catering industry said only about half of the sector’s smaller operators had managed to fall into line with the rules.

Simon Wong Ka-wo, the president of the Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades, said on Sunday that bigger operations were better equipped to make the change.

“Large-scale restaurants complied with the rule quickly as the government has already implemented the ban,” Wong added. “They do not wish to affect their image given their big names.”

He said that some in the catering sector would charge customers for eco-friendly utensils and that some customers would opt to use their own cutlery instead.

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Takeaway breakfasts are lined up in Kwun Tong as the first phase of ban on single-use plastics, including polystyrene containers and throwaway cutlery, came into force last month. Photo: Sam Tsang

Wong was speaking after the Environmental Protection Department told the Post that more than half of the restaurants it visited in the first week of the ban had already switched to non-plastic single-use cutlery.

The department did not reveal how many places it had inspected, but that the majority of big chain restaurants had “fully changed” their utensils and tableware to comply with the new regulations.

Officials added that a number of takeaway customers did not take the cutlery on offer.

The department said it aimed to inspect 20,000 food retailers over the six-month grace period granted by the government to allow for a changeover to green alternatives.

The ban on single-use plastics came into force on April 22.

Styrofoam products and throwaway plastic utensils such as cutlery and straws were banned from sale and for giving away with takeaway food purchases under the first phase.

Single-use plastic tableware was also no longer available to restaurant customers dining in.

Wong said that about half of small- to medium-sized restaurants had taken advantage of the six-month grace period and had not yet complied with the new rules.

He added some had stopped offering any type of disposable utensils at all.

“Their main concerns are the costs and the quality of the alternative utensils,” he said.

Wong said plastic cutlery had been much cheaper and the change would increase overheads, although paper alternatives had appeared not to be up to the job.

Some customers have said paper-based utensils were impractical because they were too soft and went soggy very quickly.

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Testing out eco-friendly utensils for takeaway food under Hong Kong’s single-use plastic ban

Testing out eco-friendly utensils for takeaway food under Hong Kong’s single-use plastic ban

Wong said he hoped that the government would add more green tableware suppliers on its list to increase market competition and lower restaurants’ operating costs.

The Environmental Protection Department said the implementation has been smooth so far and that compliance rates among inspected hotels and retailers was at more than 80 per cent.

It did not disclose how many shops, hotels and guest houses it inspected last week but that it aimed to check 20,000 of them in total.

Peter Shiu Ka-fai, a lawmaker who represents the retail sector, said he was not aware of any stores breaching the rules.

He added plastic utensils were only a small element of their range of products and they could sell alternatives.

Chung Pok-man, the vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Department Stores and Commercial Staff General Union, agreed retail stores were less affected by the ban.

But he said he hoped the government would suggest solutions if retailers could not sell off their stocks of plastic utensils and tableware before the end of the grace period.

“The most ideal case would be allowing them to sell all the products as these are costs to the operators … the government can consider whether to extend the grace period,” he added.

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