Hongkongers to pay 4.5 baht for plastic bags

Hongkongers are to pay HK$1 (4.5 baht, US$0.13) for each plastic bag at supermarkets from next week, according to the South China Morning Post. It’s the first increase in 13 years.

Hongkongers will pay for plastic bags for chilled or frozen items, but not for takeaway food or loose fresh goods.

All operators, including major chains such as ParknShop and Wellcome have been given a one-month grace period to fully comply with the new rule, said Bruno Luk Kar-kin, the deputy director of Hong Kong’s environmental protection department. Government workers posing as shoppers will carry out spot checks after December 31.

“During the first month’s grace period, we will give advice and verbal warnings,” Luk said. “If we find some repeat offenders during the one-month period, we may consider prosecution.”

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HK’s legislative council amended the Product Eco-responsibility Ordinance in October to increase the plastic bag levy to HK$1, up from the current 50 cents, in the first increase since the law came into effect in 2009.

Under new regulations, certain exemptions will be scrapped. Supermarkets can continue to supply free bags at their produce or meat sections, but Luk urged the public to follow a “one purchase, one bag” policy, unless multiple bags were genuinely needed to avoid ruining groceries.

Operators will keep the fees, as the government does not have the capacity to gather money from the more than 100,000 shops.

Instead, Luk called on stores to use the money for environmental effects.

A survey earlier this year by NGO Greeners Action found that supermarkets alone supplied shoppers in the city with more than 170 million plastic bags every year.

In Britain, a plastic bag fee is also collected directly by stores with a strong expectation that money raised will go to environmental causes. Retailers in Ireland, however, must pass on the levy to the government.

Thailand is drowning in a maelstrom of waste. In 2020, Thais got through 700,000 tons of polystyrene, used for food containers; 1.72 million tons of plastic cups and straws; and 1.17 million tons of plastic bags per year. It is shocking to realise that Thais consume 100 million plastic straws a day as the kingdom’s recycling rate is only 25%.

Hong Kong government statistics show that waste plastic in 2020 amounted to about 21%, or 2,300 tons of municipal solid waste disposed of in landfill sites every day.

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Jon Whitman

Jon Whitman is a seasoned journalist and author who has been living and working in Asia for more than two decades. Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Jon has been at the forefront of some of the most important stories coming out of China in the past decade. After a long and successful career in East sia, Jon is now semi-retired and living in the Outer Hebrides. He continues to write and is an avid traveller and photographer, documenting his experiences across the world.

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