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Explainer: Hong Kong`s Single Use Plastic Ban

Explainer: Hong Kong`s Single Use Plastic Ban

Hong Kong`s new Product Eco-responsibility Ordinance came into force on 22 April 2024 and aims to significantly reduce single-use plastics that end up polluting the planet. What is it and how will it affect your business?

Summary the Ordinance

The new law is trying to cut down the amount of single-use plastic that ends up in landfill. They approach is pretty straightforward and uses 4 techniques:

  • Use mandatory charges to change behaviour: Plastic hotel complimentary items must be charged for.

  • Ban items that are easily replaceable: Plastic single-use cutlery and containers can be easily replaced by reusable products or non-plastic alternatives (e.g. wooden chopsticks, card food containers).

  • Supplier responsibility: The onus of the law rests with suppliers (defined as the people or businesses supplying the products to consumers). This significantly increases the efficiency of policing the system.

  • Phased introduction: Bringing in the ordinance in phases to give industry time to adjust, and for supply chains to reshape to meet the requirements of the law.

There were some dubious inclusions in the list of proscribed products. Party hats felt a little miserly. `Inflatable cheers sticks` seem unlikely to constitute a significant proportion of Hong Kong`s waste. A cynic might say this was a useful way to sneak in restrictions on vocal public gatherings.

Lawmakers have explicitly stated that the intention is to bring in later amendments to widen the scope of the law as new alternatives become viable. So we can expect future legislation to expand the range of common single-use plastics, such as bottles or packaging. We may expect the hotel complimentaries shift from being covered by mandatory charging to outright ban depending on how effective the charging is at changing behaviour.

You can read the legislative press release here, which contains links through the text of the law.

Will the law be effective?

In a word, yes. None of this law is either very new or cutting edge: Hong Kong is simply following the broad global trend in curbing single-use plastics. 150 countries are signatories to the UN campaign to reduce plastic pollution (of which this is a a linked policy), and many of them are 5 years ahead of Hong Kong in taking action. So Hong Kong has the benefit of looking to see what works elsewhere.
The mandatory charge for hotel complimentary items will be interesting to see. The EU and a few other countries have imposed a straightforward ban, but HK has chosen to use a similar mechanism to that used so successfully to reduce plastic bag use. The hotel industry is fiercely competitive and many large chains are already moving in this direction in response to cost and consumer pressure. Insisting on a mandatory, seperate charge for toiletries may create some interesting market innovation and maybe some cool brand tie-ins between FMCG brands and hotel brands.

Alternatives to plastic exist, and most are as good if not better than plastic. Card, paper and wood disposable items are low cost and readily available for catering businesses. And then there are re-usable products: everything from utensils to water bottles. We expect that the law will drive increased demand from consumers for both categories of alternatives.

Color Changing Recycled Aluminum Cup
Pocket Cutlery Set
RPET Cooler Bag
RPET Foldable Umbrella
Bamboo Eternal Pencil

How does the law affect promotional gifts?

The short answer is that this law does not directly cover most promotional gifts, unless promoters are distributing food or drink in disposable containers. Party hats and inflatable cheers sticks are two examples of items that would be covered.
However, the new law does provide a big opportunity for retailers and brand promotions. The ban on disposable umbrella bags means that customers will welcome reusable umbrella bags. Reusable, portable cutlery, straws, bottles and other items will be much more popular as promotional gifts... just make sure they are not single-use!

Are BrandHK products still OK?

Yes. BrandHK have been at the forefront of the corporate gifts market in sourcing and supplying more environmentally friendly products. We removed a number of older products that would have been covered by the ban from our catalogue. Every product from BrandHK is compliant with the new law. So you can be reassured that any promotional merchandise or corporate gifts you purchase from us will be within the law.

ECO Reusable Drinking Straws
Bamboo Ballpen
YUNA Umbrella Drying Bag
Wheat Straw Lunch Box Set
BAMBU Bamboo Flask

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