The Hong Kong government is planning to put a HK$1 levy on each bottle to help defray the cost of local recycling. According to the proposal by the government, the levy would apply to water and juice bottles as well as wine and beer bottles.
The plan also revealed that about 1,700 distributors and importers would be expected to pay the levy depending on the number or volume of bottles.
In the Environment Bureau’s statement, it was estimated that based on certain “market forces”, with the cost likely being shared by all stakeholders including wholesalers, importers, consumers and retailers, the levy would amount to approximately HK$1 for each one-liter bottle.
This means that millions would be generated each year, which would go into setting up a working glass recovery and recycling service.
Wong Kam-sing, secretary of Environment Bureau, said the aim is to recycle about 70% of glass waste, and that presently, bottles filled with food or sauce would not be included due to difficulty in cleaning before recycling, but that with expansion of the program, these could also be included.
Wine merchants have, however, expressed concern about the levy not directly taxing the consumer, which would defeat the purpose of motivating consumers to take their bottles back for recycling.
Henry Ho Yiu-hong, the Wine Merchants Chamber of Commerce president emphasized this saying that hiding the levy in the retail price would not positively affect the environmental awareness of the public, but rather a system where customers are levied each time they purchased wine would be more beneficial.
Another issue with the proposed levy is the likely increase of prices of bottled drinks by more than the levy’s price due to administrative costs. Bar and Club Association chairman, Chin Chun-wing illustrated this with the statement, “A medium-sized bar could sell more than 10,000 bottles of beer a month, and this would mean we have to pay HK$10,000 more”.
Rather, Chun is in favor of incentives being provided for establishments who separate their glass waste. This is somehow part of the government proposal, with levy exemption for those companies who have already set up collection and recycling, though the precise criteria to be used is as yet not concrete.
With Hong Kong producing around 55,000 tons of beverage glass waste every year, only around 1,500 tons end up being recycled and used for making road construction bricks. That says a lot about the current situation.