The Green Earth submit the stance on Producer Responsibility Scheme to Panel on Environmental Affairs Chairperson, Ms. Elizabeth Quat, and Member, Mr. Siu-Hung Chan
(28 November 2023)
Hong Kong – The Legislative Council’s Panel on Environmental Affairs convened on November 28th to discuss the common legislative framework for the “Producer Responsibility Scheme” (hereinafter referred to as the scheme) . The new Producer Responsibility Scheme will initially cover plastic beverage containers and beverage cartons, and later expand to include electrical vehicle batteries, lead-acid batteries, and tyres.
The Green Earth has been closely monitoring the content and legislative progress of the scheme. Prior to the panel meeting, we presented the background of the scheme and submitted a position paper to Ms. Elizabeth Quat and Mr Siu-hung Chan, Chairperson and Member of the Panel on Environmental Affairs of the Legislative Council, respectively.
We urge the authorities and legislators to establish a robust Producer Responsibility Scheme. The initial recovery rate for beverage containers should reach at least 70%, and source reduction targets on plastic usage should be set as well. To ensure the targets for waste reduction and recovery are met, a deposit return system should be implemented with a minimum value of 1 HKD, while outcomes of plastic reduction at source should also be made transparent . Our detailed position is as follows:
1. Reasonable and feasible recovery and plastic reduction targets
Firstly, the scheme must establish reasonable and feasible container recovery rates, as well as targets for plastic reduction at source. In 2022, Latvia and Slovakia implemented a container deposit return system, achieving a recycling rate of 70% in the first year  . Furthermore, beverage producers in Hong Kong had already publicly pledged an initial recovery rate of 70% as early as 2018 . Therefore, setting the recovery rate at 70% not only receives industry recognition but also aligns with the waste reduction targets of the Waste Blueprint for Hong Kong 2035.
2. Attractive deposit levels to incentivise public
The Green Earth believes that in order to achieve the aforementioned 70% container recovery rate and disposable container reduction target, attractive financial incentives should be established. International cases have proved a positive correlation between container recycling rates and deposit levels . We suggest that the deposit for beverage containers should be at least 1 HKD to encourage active participation in recycling. In 2021, in collaboration with several local environmental organisations, we commissioned a survey by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, which found strong public support for setting the incentive level at 1 HKD . We urge the authorities to listen to public opinion and propose an effective legal framework.
3. Convenient recovery network for consumers to return containers
The scheme should require beverage producers and distributors to establish a sound recovery network that makes it convenient for consumers to return containers. International cases have shown that the average recycling rate can reach 87% where recycling points are available for consumers at retail shops. However, if collection points are designated elsewhere, the recycling rate drops to only 71%, nearly 20 percentage points difference . Since the scheme is expected to be implemented as early as 2025, we suggest that producers seize the opportunity and establish a retail-based recovery network to help the public develop recycling habits and ensure the smooth implementation of the scheme.
4. Fair penalty mechanism
If producers fail to achieve the recovery or plastic reduction targets, the government should directly impose environmental taxes on the producers (rather than the scheme operators) at a level that serves as a deterrent, ensuring that producers truly uphold their responsibility to meet the targets.
5. Clear segregation of responsibilities
The Green Earth is concerned about whether the scheme can clearly define the rights, responsibilities, and division of labour among stakeholders. According to the “polluter pays” principle, producers under the scheme should be responsible for the plastic pollution generated by packaging. Therefore, they should actively participate in container recycling and adhere to reduction targets. The desired government’s role is to oversee producers’ fulfilment of their responsibilities, and consumers should also have the responsibility as environmentally conscious citizens to actively return beverage packaging; otherwise, they will not be eligible for redeeming the deposit. We suggest that the scheme should prevent producers from shifting their responsibilities.
6. Inclusion of all disposable beverage containers
The scheme should include all disposable beverage containers containing any plastic to prevent beverage companies from switching to other disposable packaging to evade the regulation. Legislative Council documents state that the scheme may exempt drink pouches. However, most of these beverage packaging are made of plastic and metal composites, which are even more difficult to recycle and reuse and often end up being disposed of. Similar composite packaging materials have caused severe land and water pollution in Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asian countries, attracting international attention  . The Green Earth suggests that the authorities take preemptive measures and regulate all plastic disposable beverage containers.
7. Transparent review and monitoring mechanisms
Upon reviewing the Legislative Council documents, The Green Earth found that the authorities did not have a review mechanism in place for the scheme. We are concerned that the effectiveness of the scheme may be compromised as a result. We propose that the scheme should require producers to annually disclose audited recycling and disposable container reduction data to facilitate the public and relevant authorities’ oversight of the progress and effectiveness of the scheme. Besides, regular review of the scheme (minimum every 2 to 3 years) should be implemented, for example, increasing recovery rate and deposit level, to keep the scheme refresh and up-to-date.
8. Reuse to replace disposable practices
The key to avoiding plastic pollution from disposable beverage containers is to abolish disposable practices. The authorities should promote reuse culture and lay down the roadmap to endorse reuse culture among the public to achieve zero-waste target.
Executive Director Edwin Lau, MH
Deputy Director Dr Rico Wong
Tel: 3708 8380
Email: [email protected]
 Panel on Environmental Affairs (Agenda) 28 November 2023:
 Reuse and Recycling through Deposit Systems:
 National deposit return system in Slovakia facilitated over 70% return rate in first year, says TOMRA:
 Drink Without Waste: Strategies and Actions:
 Deposit return systems: How they perform:
 (Chinese only) 逾七成市民支持膠樽按樽一元 環保團體呼籲公眾填寫諮詢問卷:
 Reloop: A Guide to Modern Deposit Return Systems: 10 Essential Practices:
 A Reuters Special Report – Unilever’s Plastic Playbook:
 Reuters – Explainer: Plastic sachets: As big brands cashed in, a waste crisis spiralled: