The popular trend of online shopping has contributed to the waste problem in Hong Kong, with the city yet to tackle excessive packaging, a lawmaker has warned.
The warning came as government statistics showed the number of online shoppers rose toover 1.7 million in 2016, three times more than in 2005.
According to a survey carried out by the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong last month, products ordered online tended to be wrapped in three layers of packaging. It estimated that this could produce 1,460 tonnes of waste each year – the weight of 122 double-decker buses.
The DAB’s Chan Hak-kan, who chairs the Legislative Council’s environmental affairs panel, called on the government to speed up the producer responsibility scheme whereby sellers and logistics companies would be charged for packing materials to discourage waste.
“The Environment Bureau wanted the scheme to cover six waste categories, including packing materials, in 2005 but has got things done only in two areas,” Chan said. These cover plastic bags and some electronic goods. A bill covering glass bottles was passed last year.
The heads of the Hong Kong Courier Association and the E-Commerce Association pointed to the need to avoid complaints from customers.
“Buyers and sellers all want safe transportation,” said Gary Ng Kong of the Courier Association.
Stanley Lee Kei-chuen of the E-Commerce Association said sellers tended to use heavy packing because shoppers could ask for refunds and leave negative comments online and additional packaging did not usually boost transport charges significantly.
Agreeing that consumers had the responsibility to reject over-packaging, Angus Ho Hon-wai of Greeners Action urged suppliers to think twice before adding extra layers and to use recyclable materials.
Friends of the Earth project officer Wendell Chan Kwok-cheung said it would be difficult to implement a producer responsibility scheme for cross-border e-commerce, which dominates the Hong Kong market.
The Department of Environmental Protection said packaging materials would not be the next target of the producers responsibility scheme considering the volume of waste generated, difficulties in defining the scope of regulation, waste treatment capacity and outlets for recycled material.