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LCQ20: Measures to reduce generation of disposable food containers

     Following is a question by the Hon Mrs Regina Ip and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (July 11):


     Treatment of municipal solid waste by the authorities is of public concern, and polystyrene foam plastic (commonly known as "styrofoam") tableware accounts for a certain quantity of domestic waste.  According to Monitoring of Solid Waste in Hong Kong - Waste Statistics for 2010 published by the Environmental Protection Department, styrofoam tableware disposed of at landfills amounted to 32 tonnes a day.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council :

(a) of the details of the quantities of various types of styrofoam waste and the respective percentages of such quantities in the total quantity of municipal solid waste in Hong Kong in the past three years;

(b) of the total number of food containers disposed of by primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong in the past three years; among such containers, of the respective percentages of the numbers of disposable styrofoam food containers and food containers which can be recovered for recycling in the total number of food containers disposed of; in addition to implementing the Green Lunch Charter and providing funding to help schools adopt on-site meal portioning, of the details of the policies and measures adopted by the authorities at present for reducing the use of disposable styrofoam food containers by schools;

(c) whether the authorities have considered providing economic incentives (e.g. tax concessions) to catering suppliers to encourage them to provide food containers which can be recovered for recycling instead of styrofoam food containers; if they have, of the progress; if not, the details of the targeted measures adopted by the authorities; and  

(d) of the specific plans adopted respectively by the authorities at present in relation to the treatment and reduction of various types of styrofoam waste; whether the authorities have made reference to the experience of foreign countries; if they have, of the specific details, as well as the progress of the current plans of the authorities?



(a) The quantities of styrofoam waste disposed of at landfills and the percentages of municipal solid waste (MSW) they accounted for between 2008 and 2010 are shown at annex 1.

(b) The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) conducted a questionnaire survey covering all primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong in 2010.  The findings showed that about 550,000 students had lunch at school.  A breakdown of their lunch practices is show at annex 2.

     In motivating schools to reduce generation of disposable food containers, the EPD has drawn up a Guideline on How to Promote Green Lunch in Schools to promote lunch practices in schools whereby disposable food containers and food waste can be reduced.  In addition, the Environment Bureau and the Education Bureau (EDB) jointly invited all schools in Hong Kong to sign the Green Lunch Charter in early 2010.  The aim was to discourage the use of disposable food containers and encourage on-site meal portioning in schools as far as possible.   So far nearly 300 schools have signed the Charter.

     The Environment and Conservation Fund has earmarked $150 million to subsidise basic conversion works and the retrofitting of basic facilities in existing schools to implement on-site meal portioning.  Subsidised schools will use trays and tableware that can be washed repeatedly and hence reduce the use of disposable tableware.  So far 88 schools have been granted subsidies.  The design and installations of new schools will be compatible with on-site meal portioning.

     Apart from continuing to carry out the above measures, the EPD, the EDB, the Environmental Campaign Committee and the Yan Oi Tong have jointly launched the "Reduce Your Waste and Recycle Your Plastics Campaign" since the academic year 2011.  Through this education programme which includes an educational kit as well as drama, we encourage primary and secondary students to reduce generating waste while shopping or eating both at home or at school.  This includes the reduction in food waste and the use of reusable tableware.

(c) and (d) Waste reduction is the key strategy to address the serious waste problem facing Hong Kong.  To this end, the Government encourages the catering industry to avoid using single-use food containers and tableware as far as possible, and conveys the same message to the general public through publicity and education.  Overall speaking, with the increase in public environmental awareness, the number of caterers in the market adopting "environment-friendly food containers" to hold food has increased.  These "environment-friendly food containers" are mainly made of polypropylene (PP) and can be reused many times.  As such, the promotion of waste reduction remains our guiding policy.  The Government will continue to step up efforts on waste reduction at source.  At the same time, we will develop the proposal for MSW charging as soon as possible to provide further incentive to reduce the use of single-use disposable items, including styrofoam food containers.

Ends/Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Issued at HKT 12:09


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