Hong Kong eyes expanding plastic bag ban

By Steve Toloken
Staff Reporter / Asia Bureau Chief

Published: May 9, 2013 11:55 am ET
Updated: May 9, 2013 10:46 pm ET

Related to this story

Topics Packaging, Sustainability, Film & Sheet, Extrusion, Government & Legislation, Grocery bags

HONG KONG — Hong Kong's government wants to expand its 4-year-old ban on free plastic shopping bags to cover the vast majority of retailers in the densely-populated city, saying the measure is needed to reduce a landfill space crunch.

The proposal from the city's Environmental Protection Department said the existing ban has cut bag use by at least 75 percent in the 3,000 largest supermarkets, convenience marts and drug stores the current law covers, and that public comments support expanding it to more stores.

"Excessive use of [plastic shopping bags] remains a serious problem in Hong Kong as many other retail outlets are still distributing PSBs to their customers as a matter of routine," EPD said in its proposal. "Their excessive use and their subsequent disposal is creating pressure on the already stretched landfill resources."

The Hong Kong Plastic Bag Manufacturers Association did not have a strong reaction to the proposal, saying its members have adjusted their business plans to make other higher-value products after several years of having their products targeted.

"The general response from our association is 'Life goes on, that kind of attitude,' " said Rickly Wong, PBMA executive vice president and sales director at Hong Kong based packaging firm Universal Plastic & Metal Manufacturing.

But Wong did repeat the results of a 2011 study from the association that said that while plastic shopping bag use dropped in Hong Kong after the ban, the overall use of plastic in bags continued to increase because consumers bought more garbage bags. They could no longer reuse as many shopping bags as trash bin liners, PBMA said.

"We found that the tonnage of our products have not been reduced," he said. "There's been a steady increase in the last few years."

The amount of plastic used in garbage bags in Hong Kong went up 63 percent, and for non-woven plastic bags, it increased 96 percent, while for traditional retail shopping bags, it fell 68 percent, the PBMA said.

But the EPD maintains that putting a fee on bags reduces their use by up to 90 percent, and it suggested there was room for further reductions because 96 percent of the 4.4 billion plastic shopping bags that go into the city's landfills each year come from businesses not currently covered.

The EPD's proposal is broad and covers most sales of physical products, regardless of where they happen. Beyond expanding to other retailers, it would also include service businesses, such as salons selling hair care products or tutorial schools selling books.

One of the biggest changes from the current ban is that businesses would be allowed to keep the 50 Hong Kong cents (6.4 US cents) fee they receive when selling a plastic bag, rather than giving it to the government as they must do now.

The EPD said it wanted to reduce the administrative burden on stores, particularly smaller establishments that would be covered for the first time, but it said it will urge all businesses to donate the bag sale proceeds to environmental causes.

The government also disclosed that the 2009 ban has raised much less money than initially estimated, bringing in about HK $26.5 million (US $3.4 million) a year to the city treasury, a fraction of the HK $200 million (US $25.7 million) initially estimated. It said it based that early estimate on a forecasted drop of 50 percent in bag use at covered retailers.

Hong Kong, a largely self-governing territory of China, has about 7.1 million residents.

The EPD proposal would also exempt bags that are critical for food hygiene, but it would cover the clear plastic bags that are currently given away to wrap frozen or chilled food.


Comments

Hong Kong eyes expanding plastic bag ban

By Steve Toloken
Staff Reporter / Asia Bureau Chief

Published: May 9, 2013 11:55 am ET
Updated: May 9, 2013 10:46 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

China's Shide Group, BASF unveil 'revolutionary' all-plastic window profile

April 23, 2014 9:10 pm ET

SHANGHAI — The PVC window profile market in Asia is expected to increase four-fold by 2025, and Chinese building products maker Dalian Shide...    More

Image

How CEO Santi is changing ITW

April 23, 2014 2:48 pm ET

Scott Santi is showing he can do more than just cut costs at Illinois Tool Works Inc.    More

Image

Unilever puts Dove brand on a MuCell diet

April 23, 2014 1:57 pm ET

New technology employed by Unilever NV in the manufacture of bottles for its Dove Body Wash range of products could end up saving the brand owner up...    More

Image

Coffee roaster looks to improve footprint of single cup systems

April 22, 2014 1:30 pm ET

One of the largest coffee and tea manufacturers in North America has introduced a single-serve beverage capsule intended to curb the waste created by ...    More

Image

Pregis Corp. to get new owner

April 22, 2014 11:44 am ET

The private equity owner of Pregis Corp. is selling off its North American operations for an undisclosed sum.    More

Market Reports

Market Data Book - Rankings & Lists

A one-stop download of Plastic News' exclusive annual lists and processor rankings containing essential data including sales, employees, end markets, materials and more.
EXCLUSIVE EXCEL FEATURE: full mailing address details for available plant locations.

Learn more

Thermoformed Packaging 2014 Market Review & Outlook North America

This in-depth report provides analysis and discussions of economic and political conditions, market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting supply and demand, business opportunities and threats, materials pricing, manufacturing technology, as well as strategies being implemented by thermoformed packaging companies. In addition, there are reviews of 25 leading thermoformers in the packaging segment, assessing their growth initiatives and performance metrics over 10 years.

Learn more

Mold Making and Tooling Review and Outlook 2014 North America

This report provides in-depth analysis of the mold and toolmaking market for North America, including discussions of trends, opportunities, threats, the latest developments in production and labor and equipment trends impacting moldmakers.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

May 6, 2014 - May 8, 2014Plastics in Medical Devices 2014

May 12, 2014 - May 12, 2014Plastics News Brazil Pharma Summit

September 10, 2014 - September 12, 2014Plastics Caps & Closures 2014

February 3, 2015 - February 7, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events