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Plastic bag levy proves to be a huge success
By Phoebe Cheng (HK Edition)
Updated: 2009-11-25 07:37

HONG KONG: The environmental levy aimed at reducing the enormous problem of daily disposal of millions of plastic shopping bags has proven a resounding success, with officials declaring a reduction of 91.3 percent in the distribution of plastic bags since the levy went into effect on July 7.

According to a survey done by the Waste Management Subcommittee of the Advisory Council on the Environment, prescribed retailers, mainly supermarkets, convenience stores, pharmacies and cosmetics shops, currently distribute, on average, 157,000 plastic shopping bags daily. In 2005, it was estimated that the average daily distribution of plastic bags was around 5.37 million.

Under the levy scheme, registered retailers are required to submit to the government quarterly returns setting out the numbers of plastic shopping bags distributed to customers. The first quarterly returns covered the period between July 7 and September 30. During that period, registered retailers distributed about 13.46 million plastic bags drawing a levy income of about HK$6.7 million.

From the available statistics of the Monthly Survey of Retail Sales compiled by the Census and Statistics Department, the value of the retail sales in supermarkets in July, August and September registered an increase in the range between 0.6 percent and 2.6 percent over the corresponding period last year. The figure shows that the environmental levy scheme has not had discernible adverse impact on retail sales.

An official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said authorities are pleased to see the unquestionable effectiveness of the scheme and plan to gather opinion and information from different areas, especially from retail outlets, green groups and the public for next year as an additional means of evaluating the environmental levy scheme.

(HK Edition 11/25/2009 page1)