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

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

Beer maker Carlsberg enlists suppliers for 'upcycling' project

July 22, 2014 11:14 am ET

Carlsberg Breweries A/S in Denmark has started an ambitious project with its suppliers to optimize its packaging for the purpose of “upcycling....    More

Image

Global market for plastic containers to top 46 million metric tons by 2021

July 22, 2014 10:56 am ET

German research company Ceresana has released a study saying that it expects the global market for plastic containers to rise to 46.2 million metric...    More

Image

Windmöller & Hölscher looking to continued growth in China

July 21, 2014 3:40 pm ET

With 2013 global sales of 600 million euros, China has grown into an important export market for Windmöller & Hölscher KG, second only to the United...    More

San Antonio launching curbside recycling of plastic bags

July 21, 2014 3:06 pm ET

Curbside plastic bag recycling is coming to one of the largest cities in the country.    More

Image

Grocery store chain says bag recycling up by 10 percent

July 21, 2014 2:54 pm ET

Kroger Co., with more than 2,600 stores in 34 states and sales nearing $100 billion, saw plastic bag recycling increase by 10 percent last year.    More

Market Reports

Injection Molders Market Report & Ranking 2014

This special package contains our 132-page 2014 Market Report on the Injection Molding segment and our exclusive 2014 RANKINGS database of 500+ Injection Molders for a discounted package price.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Market Review & Outlook 2014

This special report from Plastics News examines the North American plastics recycling industry and provides insight into indicators that impact market viability, including Resin pricing trends for virgin and recycled market material and historical Resin production trends for post- consumer and industrial waste.

Learn more

Shale Gas Market - Analysis of North American Region

This report highlights the impact of shale-based natural gas on the North American plastics market and features an in-depth analysis of production trends in the United States during 2013 and a forecast for 2014 and beyond.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

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

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events