A green group has estimated that two major Hong Kong fast-food chains gave out 150 million pieces of plastic utensils last year.

Greenpeace counted the number of plastic utensils given away in a single day at the Causeway Bay branches of popular local chains Café de Coral and Fairwood. It analysed its findings using transaction data collected from marketing research companies, and estimated that Café de Coral and Fairwood gave away 88.23 million and 68.02 million pieces in a year.

It said that on average, the two chains provided six plastic items for a single meal, including plastic covers for meal boxes, plastic gloves, and a plastic spoon for iced drinks.

Café de Coral Fairwood
Café de Coral and Fairwood. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Cswaich/Apple Daily.

Greenpeace said market research indicated that the number of transactions for the two chains will rise 16 per cent in the next five years, meaning that the number of plastic utensils used will rise drastically if the companies do not establish plans to reduce plastic use.

“Café de Coral and Fairwood have been selling their local image – then they should have an extra layer of attachment to Hong Kong, and bear more responsibility for Hong Kong’s environment,” it said. “In terms of operation, the two local groups have more localised management teams compared to international enterprises, and they should be able to make more localised and effective decisions.”

If lined up, the plastic utensils used by Café de Coral customers in a single year would stretch 4.4 times the flight distance between Hong Kong and Tokyo, while those given out by Fairwood would measure 3.5 times the same distance.

In response, Café de Coral told news site HK01 that it started in August a pilot scheme at 47 shops to use wooden sticks to replace plastic sticks and plastic spoon for hot drinks. The scheme will be promoted to all shops in September.

It said that reusable utensils are provided for stay-in meals, but some shops had to give away disposable utensils because they could only provide takeaway service owing to limited space and facilities. It added that self-service machines and apps allow customers to opt out of disposable meal boxes, cups and straws for their take-out.

Café de Coral
Plastic stick used for hot drinks at Café de Coral. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Andesonpla.

Fairwood said it started switching to using wooden sticks for hot drinks in April and the process would complete in September, reducing 30 per cent of plastic use.

It said it was looking into using other materials for utensils. It added that its shops provide reusable utensils to customers, except for two small branches at Kowloon station and at Sun Hung Kai Centre in Wan Chai, which mainly serve takeaway customers.

But Greenpeace criticised the measures to replace disposable plastic utensils with disposable wooden utensils: “The measures are not helping a lot, and there are no long-term plans.”

It said the stir sticks for hot drinks could be replaced by teaspoons or simply eliminated.

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.