All you need to know about Hong Kong’s new ban on single-use plastics – a complete visual guide


Lunch experiment: how much plastic waste?

Hong Kong, a bustling city of nearly 7.5 million, has more than
17,000 restaurants. People throw out tens of thousands of tonnes
of plastic every year, much of it packaging waste from takeaway
meals. In a small experiment conducted March 18-22 before the ban,
six members of South China Morning Post’s graphics team kept track
of the disposable packaging and utensils that came with their
takeaway lunches.

New regulations

Recycling in Hong Kong

Every day in Hong Kong, thousands of tonnes of garbage including
plastic waste needs to be disposed of at three strategic
landfills. The facilities have a total capacity of 139 million
㎥. This would be the equivalent of a giant cube more than
518 metres high.


Refuse transfer station    

Treatment and recycling facility

In 2022, Hong Kong generated 5.97 million tonnes of municipal
solid waste (MSW) with more than 4 million tonnes (almost 70%)
ending up in two landfills, while the rest was recovered for
recycling either locally or by exporting. Plastic waste was the
second largest contributor with 2,369 tonnes per day. Only 12.3%
of Hong Kong’s total plastic waste is recovered for recycling.

Amount of plastic waste recycled in Hong Kong in 2022

Food and other municipal solid waste    

Plastic waste

Most facilities in Hong Kong are small and rely mainly on manual
sorting. Hong Kong does not have any of the typical material
recovery facilities (MRF) found in developed countries. Plastics
mixed with generic waste, contaminated with stains, or wrapped in
plastic bags will likely end up in landfill. This highlights why
people should sort their own rubbish for recycling.

Hong Kong recycling capabilities compared with other places

Total MSW    

Percentage collected for recycling

Hong Kong’s waste-charging scheme

Hong Kong’s new waste charging scheme will take effect on August
1, 2024. From this date, residents will be required to use
prepaid, government-approved garbage bags to dispose of trash.
Under the charge-per-bag arrangement, residents will pay 11 Hong
Kong cents (1 US cent) for each litre of garbage they throw away.
Bags will come in nine sizes.

To reduce MSW costs, people are encouraged to make use of free
recycling initiatives such as GREEN@COMMUNITY.


It is a community recycling network developed by Hong Kong’s
Environmental Protection Department. People can sort their garbage
into 11 categories and dispose of it at facilities throughout Hong

Global plastic pollution

Plastic consumption varies among countries and territories.
According to Environmental Action’s 2024 Plastic Overshoot report,
people in Belgium are the top generators of plastic waste, with
147.7kg per person a year. Hong Kong is among the world’s highest
per capita plastic consumers.

Plastic consumption per person in a year


High income    

Upper middle income    

Lower middle income    

Low income

In March 2022, the United Nations approved a landmark agreement to
create the world’s first ever global plastic pollution treaty.
Even before that, nations and territories began regulating or
banning single-use plastics. Here’s a look.

Associate Creative Director Marcelo DuhaldeEdited by Andrew London

Sources: South China Morning Post archives, Hong Kong
Environmental Protection Department, Hong Kong Census and
Statistics Department, Plastic Overshoot Report



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