Zero tol­er­ance for busi­nesses that defy pub­lic health

China Daily (USA) - - HONG KONG -

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

Hong Kong ev­ery day.

A local news­pa­per re­port 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.


said ear­lier this year that up to 2,000 tons of plas­tic waste are dis­carded in

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