Hong Kong is considering a tax on plastic bags, along with other restrictions, as supermarkets in the territory have launched voluntary campaigns to reduce use.
Government officials raised the possibility of taxes and restrictions as part of a package of budget measures introduced Feb. 22, but said they want to consult with stores and the public before taking any action.
A news release from Environment, Transport and Works Secretary Sarah Liao said the government could set up a regulatory scheme by 2007 and noted that education will be an important component.
``We are considering banning free distribution and levying a tax to reduce indiscriminate use of plastic bags,'' an ETW spokeswoman said.
She said the two largest supermarket chains in Hong Kong kicked off campaigns to reduce bag use after the government made its announcement.
One local environmental group, Friends of the Earth, said voluntary measures probably will not work and urged the government to pursue legislation.
Edwin Lau Che-feng, assistant director of Friends of the Earth Hong Kong, said environmental groups have been trying for 10 years to reduce bag use, but he said stores are reluctant to act on their own out of fear it would put them at a competitive disadvantage.
FOE, with Hong Kong headquarters in Wan Chai, estimates that Hong Kong's roughly 7 million people use 33 million plastic bags a day, up from about 25 million five years ago.
``The increased use of disposable bags is so huge,'' he said. ``The government should really step up its actions.''
Lau said voluntary measures in the past only reduced bag use by a few percentage points, and he said retailers look at the effort more as public relations than waste reduction.
Lau said the government should look for much deeper reductions in use, pointing to efforts in Australia.
Taiwan also has strict laws targeting plastic bags, although officials there recently relaxed some of the restrictions, as polls show the campaign is not popular with the public.