Which Beverage Packaging Should I Choose?
Summer is here, and we’re thirsty! Water is the healthiest way to quench your thirst, and there is no need to buy packaged water in Hong Kong. There are many filters available on the Hong Kong market, from jug filters, to integrated under-the-counter filtration systems, including ones that will provide sparking water on demand. Wing On is a good place to start looking for the type that best suits your needs.
The goal is to reduce the amount of packaging used, but 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. This month, we will be sharing a series of tips and recommendations to help you make the right choices. Want to know more?
Remember – the best packaging is no packaging. And buying packaged water is unnecessary in HK. Carry your own bottle and refill it along the way whenever possible.
If you do buy packaged beverages, your packaging choices will make a difference. Opt for those that have the best chance of getting recycled.
Tips For Choosing The Best Packaging – From a Recycling Point Of View
1. Choose Small Labels
What difference does a label make?
To ensure that the beverage packaging has the best chance of getting recycled, consider this.
Size makes a difference. Choose a plastic bottle with a small label, or no label. A label that fully covers a large part of the bottle may stop the sorting machine from detecting what type of plastic the bottle is; the bottle may be rejected and not get recycled. Full labels might be necessary to protect the product from light, though larger labels are often an unnecessary marketing tool, and the wasteful material is often not recycled.
2. Choose Clear or Transparent Light Blue Bottles
Not all beverage packaging is created equal. Even the colour of the bottle makes a difference!
To ensure your beverage container has the best chance of getting recycled, choose transparent clear or transparent light blue plastic bottles. For recycling to work, a high volume of the same type and colour of plastic is needed. Transparent clear plastic bottles can be recycled into any colour bottles, but coloured plastic bottles are rarely recycled into bottles. Clear, colourless bottles are in higher demand by recyclers, making them more valuable than coloured bottles which are likely to be downcycled into another product. Transparent light blue bottles can be mixed in with transparent clear bottles.
This is the reason the iconic green Sprite bottle has been changed to a clear, colourless bottle. Remember – the best packaging is no packaging. And buying packaged water is unnecessary in HK. Carry your own bottle and refill it along the way whenever possible.
3. Leave On Bottle Caps and Labels
Should I leave the cap on? The answer is yes!
Leave the cap and the label on a plastic bottle when recycling it. 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 may be discarded.
Labels are small and light and can easily end up in the environment. 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 is created equal. But what about pouches?
Our recommendation: avoid them. Even though they may be technically recyclable, beverage pouches are usually made from multi-layer materials which makes recycling difficult, if not impossible. We’re starting to see more single-material pouches which are recyclable available on the market, but Hong Kong, like most countries, does not yet have a retail take-back programme. That means for now, the pouches won’t be pulled out of the recycling stream and will end up in landfill, or in our future incinerators.
5. Avoid Liquid Cartons
The classic milk carton – also used for soymilk and many other beverages – is unfortunately not the best choice of packaging for Hong Kong, and many other countries. In HK, few if any buildings offer liquid carton collection. They cannot be put into standard recycling bins. And even if recycled, a portion of the material will almost always end up in landfill.
Not only that – the only liquid carton recycling facility in HK may shut down this July. Although a new paper recycling facility which will also handle liquid cartons is expected to open in 2025, the situation is still unclear.
If there is no recycling of liquid cartons in HK, you should definitely avoid liquid cartons if you want your packaging to be recycled.
If there is recycling available and you choose to use them, wash & dry them, and remove the plastic spout, cap & straw before recycling. There are some dedicated collection bins located around HK, and a few reverse vending machines (RVMs) accept them, but the most convenient and reliable place to recycle these are at Green@Community facilities.
6. Choose Packaging With Higher Recycled Content
Not all beverage packaging is created equal. When you buy food and drink this summer, look for packaging that includes recycled content. If more consumers choose packaging with higher recycled content, more manufacturers will want to use it. Greater demand for recycled material will help drive the recycling industry.
Remember – the best packaging is no packaging. And buying packaged water is unnecessary in Hong Kong. Carry your own bottle and refill it along the way whenever possible.
If you do buy packaged beverages, buying packaging with recycled content will make a difference.
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