Published: 13:09, April 23, 2024 | Updated: 15:36, April 23, 2024
CE: Plastic tableware ban response positive
By Wang Zhan in Hong Kong
A staff member readies takeouts at a restaurant in Admiralty, Hong Kong, on April 22, 2024. (ANDY CHONG / CHINA DAILY)

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu on Tuesday expressed his optimism about the newly-imposed ban on the single-use plastic tableware, stressing that it is a collective responsibility to protect the environment.

Speaking to the media ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting, he said the overall response had been positive, adding that the measure would not have a huge impact on people’s daily lives as environment-friendly alternatives to plastic tableware were available.

The first stage of the single-use plastics ban came into effect on Monday with a six-month buffer period, as restaurants are not allowed to offer nine types of products made of expanded polystyrene — a non-biodegradable material – including cutlery, straws, plates, cups and lids, and food containers.

Alternative products have been developed for some time. We just start the measure of banning plastic tableware. We do hope that Hong Kong people will understand it is our responsibility to protect the environment.

John Lee Ka-chiu, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive

“The Environment Protection Department has provided information about 700 alternative (plastic tableware) products,” Lee said.

“This is still the early stage of the initiative. It takes time to change people’s behavior, but it is the right direction. We need to work together to protect our environment.”

The alternatives would keep improving and evolving to meet people’s needs, Lee said, adding that the authorities would monitor their supply and cost to ensure they remained affordable.

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“Alternative products have been developed for some time. We just start the measure of banning plastic tableware. We do hope that Hong Kong people will understand it is our responsibility to protect the environment,” he said.

Golden Week

Asked about the government’s preparation for the upcoming May 1 Golden Week, the CE said the authorities were making comprehensive measures and estimated that there would be at least 800,000 visitors coming from the mainland.

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Visitors walk on Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong on their way to watch the New Year's Eve fireworks display in Victoria Harbour on Dec 31, 2023. (EDMOND TANG / CHINA DAILY)

Different immigration control points – including airport, railway and land crossing – are expected to handle roughly 5.9 million arrivals and departures, he said, adding that the actual arrangements would be announced ahead of the peak season.

The Transport and Logistics Bureau has been in communication with transportation operators to ensure smooth border-crossing arrangements and travel experience for visitors, he said.

Extreme weather preparation

Regarding measures to tackle potential extreme weather, the CE said the government had had good dialogue with the authorities in Guangdong province over the discharge of water and also had an agreement on an advanced notice of the discharge.

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Cars drive past the flooded and damaged Lung Cheung Road slowly due to a violent rainstorm in Wong Tai Sin, Hong Kong, on Sept 8, 2023. (ANDY CHONG / CHINA DAILY)

The discharge of water from the reserviors in Shenzhen or neighboring cities would not cause any flooding in Hong Kong as both sides adopted different systems, he stressed.

The chief secretary for administration has already convened an interdepartmental meeting to go through all measures to cope with potential extreme weather, so that the authorities could issue earlier warnings to the public and enhance the response and recovery plans, he said.

More details about the enhanced measures, also including information dissemination and traffic arrangements, will be announced soon, he added.

Measures on misinformation

Responding to a question on handling misinformation, the CE stressed the government had not neglected the threat even though the situation became less severe, and everyone, particularly journalists, would be affected.

The media had been making efforts to preserve and enhance their integrity and credibility by tackling misinformation and make clarifications when necessary, he said.

READ MORE: HKBU launches fact-checking service to fight fake news

There was no need for legislation if the sector could handle misinformation by exercising self-discipline and professionalism, he added.