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  • Writer's pictureGREEN Hospitality

Rethinking Single-Use Plastics: Hong Kong's Ban on Disposables

Image source: The Green List

As Earth Day approaches, our thoughts turn to environmental protection and sustainability. The hospitality industry has a huge opportunity to reduce plastic waste and show leadership in sustainability. Among the many sustainability initiatives underway, Hong Kong’s upcoming ban on disposable plastic tableware items, expected to come into effect on 22 April, serves as an important step in the right direction. However, as we adjust to these new policies, it is essential we take a moment to understand the impact of our plastic consumption habits and make conscious choices that contribute to a sustainable future. 

The Pervasiveness of Single-Use Plastics

Before disposable plastics become the convenient to-go containers and utensils we know so well, they must go through an intricate process of production. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch: This is a well-known example of marine plastic pollution. It is a vast area in the Pacific Ocean where plastic debris accumulates due to ocean currents known as gyres. It's estimated to be multiple times the size of Texas. Plastics are made from non-renewable fossil fuels through an energy-intensive process, which significantly contributes to the climate crisis. After brief moments of use, these plastics leave a lasting impact on the environment as waste. Did you know that the average length of time a person uses a plastic bag for is 12 minutes? As we have seen, mismanagement of plastic waste leads to plastic pollution contaminating ecosystems worldwide.  Of the plastic waste generated globally, single-use plastics comprise the greatest proportion up to 50%.

Here's what Hong Kong's ban covers and how the hospitality industry can embrace sustainable practices.

Phase One (Starting April 2022)

  • Bans plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery and plates for dine-in and takeaway

  • Bans single-use plastic cups, cup lids, and food containers for dine-in

  • Bans free plastic toiletries in hotels in small containers

  • Bans free plastic water bottles in hotel rooms

Phase Two (Potentially Starting 2025)

  • Expands ban to all single-use plastics for dine-in and takeaway

  • Bans additional items like plastic food containers, gloves, and more

The Reasons Behind the Ban Hong Kong produces 10,809 tonnes of waste daily, with 21% being plastics. Because plastics can’t biodegrade, they stay in the environment, threatening ecology and the health and safety of all life forms. A public consultation found over 90% of respondents supported regulating single-use plastics. The UN has also set goals for reducing plastic pollution globally. It's clear change is needed.

Fines and Penalty of Breaking the Law

I know, bummer if you're used to grabbing a plastic fork with your takeout order! This Product Eco-responsibility Ordinance means eateries can't hand out things like plastic forks, knives, spoons, or chopsticks anymore to comply with the regulation.

For any violation of the regulation, restaurants and shops can be fined up to HKD100,000. There's also going to be a fixed penalty where inspectors can slap places with a HKD2,000 ticket for violating the ban. 

How the Hospitality Industry can be Leaders in Sustainability

In constant interaction with customers, suppliers, and the public at large, hotels, restaurants, bars, caterers and more have a unique opportunity to lead the change and inspire sustainable practices. Here are some tips:

  • Source alternative reusable or compostable service ware for dining and takeaway. Excellent options include bamboo, wood, paper, and plant-based plastics. Ensure they are sturdy enough for their intended use and that there are facilities in Hong Kong for the handling of these waste.

  • Provide guests with reusable bottles and encourage refilling. Place filtered water dispensers in common areas and meeting spaces to cut plastic water bottle waste.

  • Replace miniature plastic toiletries with bulk dispensers, soaps, and scrubbers. Use recyclable paper packaging when needed.

  • Use cloth napkins and tablecloths instead of plastic varieties. Choose sustainable fabrics like organic cotton.

  • Offer condiments, butter, and spreads in dishes for communal use rather than wasteful individual packets.

  • Train staff on sustainability practices and upholding the plastic requirements. Ensure they can communicate this to customers as well.

  • Communicate sustainability efforts through menus, signage, TV screens, websites and more. Inspire guests to take part.

From our partners in the hospitality and F&B industry, we see the possibility of plastic reduction through rethinking practices. Small changes, when multiplied, can make a big difference. Additionally, being an industry leader in driving change in plastic reduction is beneficial to brand reputation as well. Hong Kong's plastic ban serves as a model for more regions worldwide to follow.

At GREEN Hospitality, we look forward to seeing more determined, innovative efforts in the waste reduction front. Get in touch with us at if you are seeking consultation to kick-start or streamline your waste reduction endeavors.


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