Hong Kong disposes of 400 million coffee cups every year, says green group

Some 37 per cent of those polled buy coffee in takeaway cups three times a week on average.

Hong Kong residents dispose of 400 million takeaway coffee cups every year, according to a green group, which urged the new administration to encourage reusing utensils and cutting waste at its source.

The estimate, based on a Greenpeace survey of more than 1,000 residents last month, found that some 37 per cent of respondents bought takeaway coffee three times a week on average. Based on Hong Kong’s population of 7.76 million, the green group estimated that about 400 million plastic and paper cups ended up in the city’s landfills every year.

“The government should allocate resources to encourage reusing utensils,” said Leanne Tam Wing-lam, the group’s campaigner. “If the government only prohibits plastic utensils, [society] will just switch to using disposable utensils made from paper or bamboo. It cannot solve the problem of disposable waste.”

Among the coffee drinkers interviewed, 36 per cent said they bought their drinks from fast-food restaurant chains, while more than 23 per cent purchased them from franchised coffee shops.

The government launched a two-month public consultation last year proposing to ban the sale and restaurant use of disposable expanded polystyrene tableware. Restaurants would also be prohibited from providing plastic tableware for dine-in services. The tableware, in addition to plastic straws and stirrers, will also be banned for takeaway services. The government has yet to announce the consultation findings.

The survey also found that about 80 per cent of respondents bought takeaway food that came with disposable utensils about three times a week on average, which usually meant the use of one cup and two food boxes each time.

More than half of these interviewees did not clean and recycle their disposable utensils, while two-thirds of them did not use their own utensils.

While a third said they would never borrow reusable utensils for takeaway services, over half indicated that they were willing to do so, and the green group urged authorities to explore such a system.

“The new Environment and Ecology Bureau can take reference from overseas experience and respond to residents’ willingness in trying out a borrowing system,” Tam said.

She cited an example from Seoul, where the administration launched a borrowing scheme with 18 coffee shops last year, saving 200,000 disposable cups in two months. Taiwan has also implemented new laws requiring convenience stores and fast food shops to provide cup borrowing services.

The green group said it would also launch its own cup borrowing programme this month with six coffee shops in Sheung Wan. During the six-month scheme, residents will be able to borrow cups for free if they are returned within seven days, or else forfeit a HK$80 (US$10.20) deposit.