Vending machines on government premises will stop selling bottled water measuring one litre or less starting from February 20 next year.

The new policy will cover all government-run sports complexes, performance venues, offices, urban parks, country parks, car parks, transport interchanges and ferry piers.

A spokesperson for the Environmental Protection Department said the government has always attached great importance to reducing waste and has been promoting waste reduction policies at source, as well as recycling. Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said on his social media page that the new policy will reduce plastic, waste and carbon footprints: “Use less disposable items: throw away less, save more!”

vending machine
A vending machine selling bottled water. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

There are 1,540 vending machines at government venues run by private companies.

But there will be exemptions for ad hoc operations, prolonged outdoor works or emergency situations where bottled water may be needed for staff or the public.

Hahn Chu, director of environmental advocacy at environmental group The Green Earth, welcomed the new policy but said it came too slowly.

“In Hong Kong, six million plastic bottles are sold everyday, but the recycling rate is only at 7.6 per cent. So, more than five million bottles go to the landfills,” he said on a Commercial Radio programme on Friday.

He said it may be difficult for the public to make other drinks at home, but it should be easy for people to bring their own bottles of water: “As a start, bottled water can be replaced with water fountains.”

Plastic water bottles
Plastic water bottles. Photo: Friends of the Earth.

Rachel Pang, founder of the “Water for Free” app, said she welcomed the move and urged more water fountains at government sites.

According to the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, there are over 1,800 water fountains at its sites including sport grounds, the Hong Kong stadium, swimming pools, among others.

But using Kowloon Park as an example, Pang said water fountains were only installed inside its sports centre: “But there were 20 vending machines inside the park.”

“Most importantly, install water fountains at MTR stations – since millions of people use the MTR everyday,” she said on the radio programme.

A spokesperson for Joint Host, a vending machine company, told Apple Daily that it supports the new policy and it expected it would have a minimal effect on business. It will consider replacing bottled water with other drinks.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.