The government is seeking to speed up implementing a ban on the use of disposable plastic tableware, meaning restaurants will have to swap items such as plastic straws, cutlery and plates for more eco-friendly options as early as the fourth quarter of next year.
Authorities had originally hoped to phase out single-use plastic tableware from 2025, while further extending the ban to plastic cups and their lids as well as food containers and their covers between 12 and 18 months later.
However, green groups have called on the administration to bring in the two-phase ban earlier and fully implement the entire scheme by 2025.
In a paper submitted to the Legislative Council on Tuesday, the Environment and Ecology Bureau said authorities plan to put in place the first phase of the scheme as early as the fourth quarter of 2023 – six months after the expected passage of the amended Product Eco-responsibility Ordinance.
"We notice that, at present, most of the suppliers in the market are already able to provide non-plastic alternatives (eg paper, soft wood, etc) to disposable plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery and plates that are covered by the first phase of the regulation, and their prices are generally comparable to the corresponding plastic ones," the bureau said.
Under the first phase, the SAR will prohibit the sale and use of disposable expanded polystyrene tableware at catering premises, as well as disposable plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery and plates.
As for plastic cups and food containers as well as their covers, restaurants will initially be barred from providing these items for dine-in customers, before the ban is expanded to takeaways in the second phase tentatively set for 2025.
The bureau said offenders could face a fixed penalty of HK$2,000.
However, pre-packaged food and drink products with disposable plastic items, such as straws attached to beverage cartons, and single-use tableware for medical or security needs, will be exempted from the ban.
The government is also looking to bar the sale and free distribution of other plastic products, including cotton buds, umbrella bags, and hotel toiletries, as early as the fourth quarter of next year.