(7 June 2021, Hong Kong) Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong (OPCFHK) announced a surge in the use of single-use plastic products in Hong Kong before World Oceans Day (8 June). The Foundation’s annual survey showed that usage patterns reversed during COVID-19, with Hong Kong residents using more single-use plastic straws, cutlery, and containers as they increasingly rely on food delivery services and takeaway. It represents a U-turn after three consecutive years of reduction since 2017.
95% of marine debris found in Hong Kong came from local sources, with 60-80% made up of plastic waste. Single-use plastic straws remain the major contributor to marine debris and take up to 500 years to become microplastic. However, the survey indicated that these facts alone were insufficient to deter people; many still opted to use single-use plastic products because of their perceived convenience.
The local survey, which interviewed 1,000 respondents aged 15-59, saw that single-use plastic straw consumption rose from 4 to 4.4 per week. This marked the first time the figure increased since 2017, with the city’s annual consumption now totalling 1.1 billion plastic straws per year. The COVID-19 pandemic has also made a tremendous impact on restaurant-related plastic waste. With the active working population aged 25-59 ordering more food deliveries and takeaways, the use of plastic cutlery and containers saw a sharp increase from 2.1 to 2.8 items per week.
 The survey interviewed 1,000 respondents aged 15 or above from 16 April to 7 May 2021. Results show that the average consumption per week per person is 4.4 straws. When multiplied by the total population within that same age group in Hong Kong (4,846,876) and the number of weeks in a year (52), that is equivalent to 1.1 billion plastic straws used in Hong Kong a year. The average consumption per week per person in the 2020 survey was 4 straws and the projected annual consumption in Hong Kong was 1.0 billion.
“We are saddened to see the consumption of single-use plastic straws increase during these tough times,” said Judy Chen, Foundation Chair of OPCFHK. “OPCFHK strives to reduce plastic consumption to protect our ocean through different campaigns and community education programmes, including the most well-known No Straw Campaign. We believe that we need to be more alert about changing consumer habits and will try our best to reshape daily habits for less plastic consumption.”
The survey found that people in Hong Kong were willing to opt out from receiving disposable cutlery when they order takeaways using food delivery apps. 40% of the interviewees opted for the “No Cutlery” option (an increase from 33% last year) when ordering using food delivery services. However, respondents did share that restaurants occasionally provide cutlery despite opting for “No Cutlery”. Among these respondents, close to half of the consumers did not return the unwanted cutlery (49%); only 62% of these consumers kept the cutlery for later use.
OPCFHK calls for the public and restaurants to be more active in establishing a no-plastic lifestyle. Consumers can prepare their own reusable cutlery when ordering food at home or the office. They can also be more mindful about opting out of receiving cutlery when placing an order. Meanwhile, restaurants and serving staff can be more cautious in providing unnecessary cutlery to customers.
When weighing in on how Hong Kong can cut down its plastic waste, 41% of survey respondents suggested restaurants stop offering single-use plastic items altogether. 18% proposed restaurants provide these items upon request with additional charges (up from 12% last year). Meanwhile, 22% asked restaurants to reward customers if they requested not to use single-use plastic items (up from 19% last year). To make these recommendations viable, the Government, industry stakeholders, restaurants and consumers must work together.
“The survey shows COVID-19 slowing down our environmental protection progress,” said Judy Chen, Foundation Chair of OPCFHK. “However, the pandemic should not be an excuse, and we should remain vigilant of the threats we impose on the environment. Currently, over 1,800 restaurant outlets, corporations, educational institutions, as well as government departments participate the “No Straw Campaign” (https://www.opcf.org.hk/en/show-your-support), these efforts should be continued and strengthened. Together, we can keep our vision of protecting our lovely environment intact.”
The survey interviewed 1,000 respondents aged 15 or above from 16 April to 7 May 2021. Results show that the average consumption per week per person is 4.4 straws. When multiplied by the total population within that same age group in Hong Kong (4,846,876) and the number of weeks in a year (52), that is equivalent to 1.1 billion plastic straws used in Hong Kong a year. The average consumption per week per person in the 2020 survey was 4 straws and the projected annual consumption in Hong Kong was 1.0 billion.