Many avail of stock-clearing window

Ayra Wang

About 70 percent of restaurants had yet to switch to environment-friendly utensils yesterday – the first day of the implementation of the single-use plastic ban – as they tried to use up their inventory which is allowed for a period of first six months.

The Environmental Protection Department said the sector are generally aware of the ban and are making adjustments to comply with the requirements.

”About 30 percent of restaurants have switched to nonplastic cutlery and it is even more ideal for hotel and retail industries with over half of their businesses operating in line with the new law,” the department said.

Under the new law, restaurants are prohibited from providing single-use plastic tableware such as straws and cutlery. They also cannot provide styrofoam containers.

But the government is offering a six-month window for restaurants and merchants, during which officers would educate and warn violators rather than take enforcement action.

An eatery in Wan Chai used styrofoam containers yesterday and an employee, Ma, said it would only start using alternatives after the adaptation period ends to clear stocks.

Another restaurant in Wan Chai started providing bamboo-made cutlery and food containers but its manager, Leung, said they still have plastic tableware.

”We expect to switch to nonplastic alternative tableware completely by the middle of next month,” Leung said, adding that the restaurant will consider raising prices due to the higher cost of alternatives.

Catering chains have switched to alternatives and customers need to pay HK$1 or HK$2 if they request disposable utensils.

Some customers paid for disposable utensils while others decided to bring their own reusable ones, as many find paper and wooden cutlery hard to use.

Customer Wong said it is inconvenient to use paper cutlery as they can be soft after being immersed in water or soup. But she does not want to bring her own utensils as “it’s troublesome to wash them every time.”

Another customer, Lam, said he will use his own utensils as it is not worth buying single-use cutlery.

Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades president Simon Wong Ka-wo said the price of eco-friendly tableware would gradually drop as restaurants purchase more.

There is a price gap between different materials as paper straws are 30 percent pricier than plastic ones while bamboo straws cost twice or thrice that of plastic, Wong said.

Meanwhile, the hotel sector said the plastic ban will increase their costs but this will not be passed on to customers.

Chief operations officer of Miramar Group Alan Chan Chung-yee said the group has replaced grooming supplies in over half of the 490 rooms in Mira Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui with bamboo or paper-based ones.

”The overall cost will increase by 20 percent after switching to eco-friendly items, with the estimated cost up by HK$300,000 a year,” Chan said, adding that the cost is acceptable and will not lead to an increase in room fees.

He hopes the government could enhance publicity at border points as many tourists have misunderstood that hotels have stopped providing toiletries.

Hong Kong Tourism Association executive director Timothy Chui Ting-pong hopes the government can provide hotels more information about nonplastic alternatives as the sector has yet to find good-quality substitutes for shower caps and rubber-handled razors.

ayra.wang@singtaonewscorp.com

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