The government is considering expanding the plastic bag levy sheme just one year after launching it.
“We hope to discuss whether the levy can be expanded to other sectors like department stores, grocery stores and even bakeries, “Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah said yesterday. Currently, the levy applies mainly to supermarkets and convenience stores. Yau suggested exemptions be made for places like wet markets, where food safety is a concern. The levy has brought in about HK$ 6 million per quarter – just 10 percent of that expected. But plastic bag usage has plunged by more than 90 percent since the levy was introduced. From June last year to May this year, a Greeners Action survey found the number of bags handed over to customers in 18 supermarkets dropped from about 2,700 daily to about 110. The group sais it showed “progress made in environmental protection by Hong Kong people”, which Yau said is a credit to both businesses and consumers.
But it also found the number of free plastic bags, made available in the fruit and vegetable sections of supermarkets, doubling to more than 400 in May from September. “Some supermarkets have started to put their plastic bags near the exits, while in the old days they could only be found near fruitstalls,” a spokesman for Greeners Action said. She suggested the government not only expand the levy, but also stop the use of free plastic bags and “environmental friendly” bags made from plastics. Consumers should also boycott supermakets that distribute these, she added. But Yau said not everything needs to be regulated. “I think rather than trying to get around loopholes in the laws, companies should put more effort into how to do a better job of environmental protection.” Yau did not give the details of when the second stage of the levy scheme might begin. He said there will be more consultations with the public on how the levy is to be collected as well as possible exemptions.