The beverage industry lobbyist, Drink Without Waste, is shamelessly advocating a HKD 5 cent rebate for returned bottles in the ongoing government Public Consultation on a Producer Responsibility Scheme for plastic beverage containers. When confronted with the fact that Octopus cards can only handle minimum transactions of HKD 10 cents, they revealed the true face of their callousness by responding “if people’s motivation is the cash then they will wait to gather at least one more.” This may seem logical, except for the fact that unlike aluminium cans, the plastic bottles cannot be crushed and are therefore extremely difficult and unwieldy for the local waste collectors to transport on their carts.
In addition to the money back to encourage the return of bottles, the government will also impose a HKD 60 cent per bottle levy to pay for the cost of recycling*. The lobbying group projects that the beverage industry will transfer the cost of this HKD 60 cent levy onto the consumers by increasing retail prices. Thereby offloading their “Producer Responsibility” onto consumers. After their initial display of callous towards the waste collectors, they then turned around to reveal their compassionate side by opining that waste collectors and construction site workers would suffer because the retail price of a bottle of water would increase from HKD 8 to HKD 8.60.
With HKD 5 cent money back per bottle, local waste collectors would need to collector over 160 bottles for a bottle of water. The minimum wage is HKD 37.5 per hour, which would be equivalent to 750 plastic bottles.
Drink Without Waste “clarified” that it is not lobbyist for the beverage industry but is in fact a “Cross Sector Working Group”. According to their website:
“In September 2017, local NGOs together with Hong Kong’s leading beverage producers and bottlers, representing nearly half of bottled water and soft drinks sold in Hong Kong, joined major retailers and the waste industry to announce the formation of the Working Group.”
“We work with a consensus based approach to decision making as defined in our Terms Of Reference.”
Although Drink Without Waste claims that its HKD 5 cent rebate proposal was arrived at by consensus, two of its NGOs members, Green Earth and Green Power (together with three other green groups) issued a contrary public petition to the government. In front of the government headquarter and in the presence of journalists, they expressed the view that the government’s proposed HKD 10 cents rebate is too low. If HKD 10 cents is too low then mustn’t HKD 5 cents also be too low? Ignoring the fact that its NGO members opine that HKD 10 cents is too low, Drink Without Waste still promoted its HKD 5 cent rebate proposal on the basis of “consensus” decision making. This appears to be a clear case of intentional misrepresentation.
By turning a blind eye to the dissenting position of its own NGO members, whom is Drink Without Waste serving? A clue may lie in the publicly available information on its funding.
You can make a difference by submitting your response to the public consultation online https://www.pprs.hk/en/pprs/form
*Based on the initial estimates on the recycling fee projected by the consultant engaged by the Government, if the rebate level is set at 10 cents per container, the recycling levy would be around HKD 50-65 cents per 500 mL container. (page 27 of the consultation document)