The ban on the use of single-use plastics at restaurants in Hong Kong will begin on April 22, 2024, a slight delay from the initial proposed start date of late 2023 or early 2024. The legislation upholding the ban, which was approved on Wednesday, will prohibit restaurants from providing dine-in and takeaway customers with disposable forks, knives, spoons, plates, and straws.

Other throwaway products that will come under the ban include cups, cup lids, food containers and their covers. However, the sale and distribution of these products will only apply to dine-in customers during the first phase of the ban. During the second phase, which will be in 2025 at the earliest, takeaway customers will not be provided with these items as well.

table showing the details of the ban on plastic tableware in hong kong
The ban on disposable tableware at restaurants will be implemented in two phases (© GovHK)

Restaurants are not the only establishments that will be affected by the ban. Hotels will also have to stop providing their guests with complimentary disposable toiletries and plastic bottled water, among other items. The new measures also extend to the sale and free distribution of glow sticks, party hats, umbrella bags, and plastic toothpicks.

Under Phase 2, other disposable items such as table cloths, plastic stemmed dental floss, and ear plugs cannot be distributed. The measures will extend to an all-out ban on the manufacturing of oxo-degradable plastic products, regardless of their disposability.

a restaurant kitchen with takeaway orders in hong kong
The ban on single-use plastics at restaurants in Hong Kong will also extend to takeaway orders (© GUANKWUZEAKIM via WikiCommons)

However, some exceptions to the ban include disposable plastic straws already attached to beverage cartons or single-use plastic cutlery inside cup noodles and ice cream cups. Restaurants can also provide or sell plastic straws to diners who have medical needs.

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The prohibition of the sale and distribution of throwaway plastics in Hong Kong will come soon after the government implements a new policy of charging for municipal waste bags, starting April 1, 2024. Authorities have recently taken several other steps to reduce the use of plastic in the territory. 

In December 2022, the government increased the fees charged for plastic bags from HK$0.5 to HK$1, a levy that also applies to mail-order and online retailers. In addition, shoppers no longer get free bags for food and drinks that come in sealed packaging, or fruit and vegetables wrapped in cling film or tissue.

Header image credits: Leung Cho Pan via Canva

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From the Middle East to the Far East and a couple of places in between, Anjali has lived in no fewer than seven cities in Asia, and has travelled extensively in the region. She worked as a lifestyle journalist in India before coming to Hong Kong, where her favourite thing to do is island-hopping with her daughter. You can check out her musings on motherhood, courtesy her Instagram profile.

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