Hong Kong people throw away 2 million disposable cups each day and few people consider where those paper and plastic cups end up when they are finished with their drinks, which is often the landfill or the ocean.

By Matilda Chan, Charlotte Sin and Alice Fong
Advisor: Ms Sandra Lowe
Pages editor:Carol Chan


Since 2016, a “Go Cup” campaign which was sponsored by Standard Chartered 150th Anniversary Community Foundation, and co-organised by Smiley Planet, encourages people to bring their own cup for takeaway beverages.

A “Go Cup” campaign spokesman said it had observed the trend among Hong Kong people of buying take away meals.

“No matter whether it is during breakfast, lunch or tea time, most Hong Kong people have a habit of taking away coffee and tea, which leads to large amounts of discarded paper cups and cup lids.”

In an effort to make Hong Kong a better place to live, the foundation and Smiley Planet started the Go Cup campaign to raise awareness about the environmental problem of needless waste that was filling up the city’s limited landfills.

Three of Hong Kong’s three landfills, will be exhausted one by one by 2020 and around 15,000 to 20,000 tonnes of waste is dumped every day.

The foundation and Smiley Planet said Hong Kong had many conscientious restaurants willing to join immediately after they knew about the campaign, and even some of them had already approached the organisers.

The campaign had faced many difficulties and “it is not easy to carry out as we need to negotiate and canvass each restaurant”, said the spokesman.

A “Go Cup Map” was created, showing the restaurants and cafes that had joined the campaign.

In order to see if one of the signatories was really keeping its pledge, a small smoothie shop in Kwai Chung Shopping Centre was visited.

After ordering a banana smoothie and offering a cup, the shop owner was not surprisingly and even asked if the cup needed to be washed first.

However, many people think that bringing their own cups for takeaway drinks is inconvenient.

“If you are just hanging out with friends, you probably won’t like to bring a larger handbag just to carry your bottle,” said Miss Lee, who ordered a smoothie with her boyfriend.

“It is so annoying because you need to wash your cup after you finish the drink and you can’t just wash it in the washroom. It will definitely create stains and smells when you leave it all day in your bag and then you have to wash it after you’ve returned home.”

A few do however bring their own cups. A university lecturer said she always brought a takeaway mug for her daily coffee and even used it for hot water.

“People in Hong Kong should really think about their wasteful habits. How many takeaway drinks does one person have in a day? If you multiply that with around 7 million, which is the population of the city, then you realise the amount of waste generated that is unnecessary,” she said.

“If we don’t take care of our planet and our city, our children will be living on a pile of rubbish and won’t be able to swim in the sea because of the plastic and there will also be no fish because they have died from eating plastic.”

Tsuen Wan district councillor and environment advocate Roy Tam Hoi Pong said it was difficult for citizens to bring their own cup because of many issues.

There was no coffee culture in Hong Kong and most people would not drink coffee on a daily basis, leading to the use of more disposable cups as people wouldn’t really bring their own, he said.

“I found restaurants using plastic utensils, including cups, are absurd, especially coffee shop chains,” Tam said.

He suggested that coffee shops should use reusable cups when people are dining in and at the same time encourage diners to eat in rather than take out, which inevitably created more plastic waste.

Tam believed the government had a big responsibility as Hong Kong did not have local factories for recycling plastic and recycling paper.

Waste plastic was no longer sent to the mainland for recycling because the central government imposed a ban on waste imports, so most of it ends up in the city’s landfills, he added.

In Taiwan, the government had a local recycling system for plastic cups and Tam suggested that Hong Kong could adopt follow suit.

He believed Hong Kong could not rely on the mainland for recycling, otherwise the city will soon face landfills that can no longer take any more waste.

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