Zero tolerance for businesses that defy public health
As the first country in the world to ban disposable plastic utensils, France has set an example which is of great relevance to Hong Kong, where used plastic cups and plates, as well as Styrofoam lunch boxes, continue to pile up on the streets and pollute its waters.
A local newspaper report said earlier this year that up to 2,000 tons of plastic waste are discarded every day — much of them disposed of in the sea. Instead of decomposing, the toxic materials from the plastic waste simply find their way into the food chain, according to the report.
Building adequate facilities to process the city’s plastic waste is an impossible objective. Previous proposals to build waste disposal plants were stalled by vigorous protests by people living near the chosen sites despite repeated government assurances that such facilities would not pose any health hazard.
The obvious solution is for everybody to chip in to eradicate the problem that’s posing a real and perceivable threat to the environment and public health. A CNN report says France has passed a law requiring all disposable tableware to be made from 50-percent, biologicallysourced materials that can be composted at home. The law, which will take effect in 2020, will allow ample time for businesses and consumers to make the necessary changes.
However, the law, while being welcomed by many, is challenged by enterprises, especially those in the food packaging industry. A pan-Europe packer association charged that the French move contravened the European Union’s law on the free movement of goods, and has threatened to take legal action against France in the EU court.
Similar objections can be expected from Hong Kong’s business community if such a law is proposed. The various chambers of commerce, which still believe in the 19th century version of a free market, predictably would argue that such a law would force many small companies, mainly those in catering, out of business and threaten the livelihood of thousands of workers.
That’s a false argument. Businesses that survive on polluting the environment and endangering public health, either directly or indirectly, deserve to be shut down.
A local newspaper report said earlier this year that up to 2,000 tons of plastic waste are discarded in Hong Kong every day.