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Asia Minute: Hong Kong’s Plastic Bottle Battle

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Plastic in the ocean is a serious pollution problem—and it’s getting worse. While many factors contribute to the issue, one growing concern is plastic water bottles. And one of the largest coastal cities in Asia is trying a new approach to cut down on the waste. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Hong Kong’s government is stopping the sale of small plastic bottles of water in vending machines on government property.

That covers about 1,100 vending machines. And when the city’s Secretary for the Environment made the announcement, he said it would “set a green example” about cutting plastic waste.

Environmentalists say they appreciate the symbolism, but critics say more needs to be done.

For starters, you can still buy big bottles of water from those government vending machines. One liter bottles are still in the racks, along with plastic bottles of all sizes containing tea and other drinks.

This July, the University of Hong Kong banned all single-use plastic bottles of a liter or less from shops, restaurants and vending machines.

Some activists want a refundable deposit on plastic bottles—which could then be returned to stores.

That’s not a popular idea with Hong Kong retailers, but stores have been a control point for some other aspects of the city’s plastic pollution.

It’s been a decade since Hong Kong started charging for plastic bags at supermarkets and convenience stores—with those payments going toward environmental protection.

As for the bottle battle, it continues in the city.

The advocacy group Green Earth says people in Hong Kong toss out more than 5 million plastic bottles…every day.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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