Which Beverage Packaging Should I Choose?

Which beverage packaging should I choose?

We should all be drinking plenty of water throughout the day to keep us hydrated and healthy. Water is the healthiest way to quench your thirst, and readily available for most homes, offices and schools. There is no need to buy packaged water in Hong Kong as our water exceeds WHO requirements, although some people prefer not to drink water straight from the tap. There are many filtration options available on the HK market, from jug-style filters to integrated under-the-counter filtration systems, including ones that will provide filtered sparkling water on demand. Wing On is a good place to start looking for the type that best suits your needs for at-home use. For larger volume needs such as schools and offices, there are water refill solutions to suit your needs as well.

For non-water beverage options, consider at-home sparkling water systems with added flavouring, and squeezing your own fruit and vegetable juices. If you do purchase a packaged beverage, choose a type that will have the best chance of getting recycled.

But which beverage containers can be recycled in Hong Kong? There’s a lot of misinformation out there. We have a series of tips and recommendations to help you make the right choice to ensure that what you buy will have the best chance of getting recycled, if you put it in the right bin. Your packaging choice will make a difference.
Remember – the best packaging is no packaging, and buying packaged water is unnecessary in HK. Carry your own bottle and keep it full. There are more and more water refill stations around, and you can find your closest free water refill station.

Tips For Choosing The Best Packaging – From a Recycling Point Of View

1. Choose Small Labels

What difference does a label make?

With labels, less is more. Choose a plastic bottle with a small label or no label at all. A label that covers a large part of the bottle may stop the sorting machine from detecting what type of plastic the bottle is, leading to the bottle not getting recycled. Full labels are sometimes necessary to protect the product from light, but are often used as a marketing tool. The unnecessary excess material is wasteful and is unlikely to be recycled.

2. Choose Clear or Transparent Light Blue Bottle

Even the colour of the bottle makes a difference!

For recycling to work, a high volume of the same type and colour of plastic is needed. Transparent clear plastic beverage bottles can be recycled back into food-grade transparent clear bottles (or any other colour bottle), so they have a higher value. Coloured plastic bottles are rarely recycled back into bottles. They are downcycled into lower value products. Bottle to bottle recycling is the goal, so choose clear transparent bottles when possible. Avoid opaque white bottles as they most likely end up in the landfill and some can contaminate the recycling stream.

3. Leave On Bottle Caps and Labels

Should I leave the cap and label on? The answer is yes!

Due to a bottle cap’s small size, it can easily escape from a rubbish bin or bag and end up in the environment. If caps do make it into the recycling stream separate from the bottle, most machinery is designed to reject anything smaller than the palm of your hand – that means loose bottle caps will likely be discarded.

Labels are small and light and can easily end up in the environment like the caps. Even if a label is put into a recycling bin, it is unlikely to get recycled as this is a low value material with little demand to separate it out from the other plastic for recycling.

4. Don’t Buy Pouches

Not all beverage packaging can be recycled. What about pouches?

Our recommendation: avoid them. Even though pouches may be technically recyclable, they are usually made from multi-layer materials which makes recycling difficult, if not impossible. We’re starting to see more single-material recyclable pouches available on the market, but Hong Kong, like most countries, does not have a retail take-back programme, which means even recyclable pouches will end up in landfill, or in our future incinerators.

5. Avoid Liquid Cartons

Should I leave the cap and label on? The answer is yes!

The classic milk carton – also used for soy milk and many other beverages – is not the best choice of packaging for HK, or for most other countries. In HK, they cannot be put into the three-colour recycling bins, and few buildings have liquid carton collection bins. Mil Mill is the one recycling facility handling this packaging in HK. Only the paper portion gets recycled here, and often in other countries as well. The rest, up to 25% of the packaging, will end up in landfill.

Labels are small and light and can easily end up in the environment like the caps. Even if a label is put into a recycling bin, it is unlikely to get recycled as this is a low value material with little demand to separate it out from the other plastic for recycling.

6. Choose Packaging With Higher Recycled Content

Does it matter if my bottle contains recycled plastic? Yes it does!

Look for packaging that includes recycled content. HK does not have legislation to require the use of recycled plastic content in packaging. The more recycled content used in packaging, the less virgin plastic is used, which means less oil is used. Consumer demand can encourage manufacturers to use recycled content in their packaging. Higher demand for recycled plastic by the manufacturers will help improve the recycling industry overall.

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You can can find more information on Design for Recycling Beverage Packaging in Hong Kong below.