Hong Kong eyes expanding plastic bag ban

By Steve Toloken
News Editor / International

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
News Editor / International

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

Recycling trade group growing in size, resources

February 27, 2015 4:50 pm ET

DALLAS — The executive director of the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers is partial to calling his group the little engine that...    More

Image

German molder picks North Carolina for US manufacturing plant

February 26, 2015 4:21 pm ET

UPDATED — German medical goods company Raumedic AG has chosen Mills River, N.C., for its first U.S. manufacturing site and U.S. headquarters.    More

Image

Silicone baby teether company working with Massachusetts recycler

February 26, 2015 1:14 pm ET

A recycling company and a startup will try to keep silicone baby products out of landfill.    More

Image

Price and sustainability both key to success for carpet recycler

February 26, 2015 1:28 pm ET

DALLAS — A green message will get you in the door, but ultimately that sustainability message has to be backed up with quality at the right...    More

Image

Expert says more action needed to solve ocean plastics problem

February 25, 2015 5:59 pm ET

DALLAS — Private companies are going to have to step up to the plate and open their wallets if the world ever wants to solve the growing problem...    More

Market Reports

Flexible Packaging Trends in North America

North America represents about 30 percent of the global consumption of flexible packaging. Annual growth in this region is forecast at 4 percent during the next 5 years.

For more insight on growth opportunities, drivers of growth and the outlook for 2015, download this report.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Plastics in Mexico - State of the Industry Report

This report analyzes the $20 billion plastics industry in Mexico including sales of machinery & equipment, resins and finished products.

Our analysts provide insight on business trends, foreign investment, top end markets and plastics processing activity. The report also provides important data on exports, production, employment and value of plastics products manufactured.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

More Events