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Bags of work needed if levy message is to sink in
The Standard
Thursday, July 02, 2009

The use of plastic bags has not declined despite publicity about the levy of 50 cents that will come into effect next week, according to retail outlets.

Most shoppers seen yesterday were still carrying plastic bags, with many claiming to have forgotten to bring their own.

According to staff at 7-Eleven, Circle K, ParknShop and Wellcome, bag usage did not decline over the past few weeks despite the publicity.

Having decided to pick up some fruit after tea with two friends, Eva Wong found it difficult to carry her own reusable bag.

Alex Lee Siu-ming simply forgot to bring his bag while shopping for ice cream with his wife and daughter.

Remembering to bring a bag was also problematic for 30-year-old banker Matt Figueiras, who now has resorted to sticking reminders on his fridge and front door.

According to the first of a three-part survey by Friends of the Earth on public acceptance of the levy, just over half of 1,000 people brought their own bags.

Nearly 30 percent did so infrequently with just under 20 percent never having done so.

Of 11.3 percent who would not bring their own reusable bags, 61 percent found it inconvenient while 20 percent usually forgot to, the survey said.
 

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Blog: Is Hong Kong eco-trendy or eco-serious?

updated 8:20 a.m. EDT, Tue July 7, 2009

By Miranda Leitsinger
CNN

HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- A plastic bag levy, a total indoor smoking ban and skyscrapers shutting the lights off? There has been a flurry of environmentally-friendly activity in Hong Kong over the past few weeks.

Tuesday marked the beginning of the environmental levy on plastic bags. For every plastic bag a customer takes at certain retail outlets, they will be charged 50 Hong Kong cents (US$0.06). Green signs have sprouted up at these outlets to inform shoppers of the new fee.

The previous week, a full ban on indoor smoking in public places came into effect. Bars, nightclubs, massage businesses and mahjong-tin kau (Chinese dominoes) premises that had earlier received an extended deferment of the ban are now forced to implement it.

And in late June, more than 3,500 buildings and groups in the southern Chinese enclave turned out the lights on a skyline known around the world for its nighttime illumination.

What is going on here? Is Hong Kong, a city that is often shrouded in smog, getting eco-serious or eco-trendy? What do you think? Sound Off below

In a city where piles of plastic bags on street corners are not uncommon -- even being accosted by them while frolicking in the sea here is not unusual -- and smoking goes hand in hand with a beer or Cosmopolitan martini, I was pleasantly surprised by the moves.

Secretary for Food and Health Dr. Yok Chow said earlier this year that tobacco "remains the major attributable factor to the top five leading causes of death in Hong Kong" and claims some 6,900 lives here yearly.

A stroll on Monday through one of the city's popular nighttime and commercial neighborhoods not only revealed the usual plastic bag mess, but also smokers puffing away in bars.

At some bars, management set up ashtrays the size of kitchen garbage cans on the sidewalks for their customers to smoke one step outside the venue.

When I spoke with staff at three different places, one said she was unsure about the requirements of the new law, another said smoking just outside the venue was fine (as long as it didn't bother anyone else) and a third told me I could actually smoke inside the bar by open windows.

I spoke with the head of the Tobacco Control Office, which has 85 officers on the team who perform unannounced inspections and look into complaints. He told me that venues were not fined for violations -- but violators could be hit with fines of up to $5,000 HK dollars ($645).

"The venue managers themselves do not have any accountability or punishment that will be imposed on them, even if they do not enforce the law. In a way, it's a bit different from overseas legislation," Lam said. "What we are working on is a kind of a collaboration -- on one hand we try to engage the venue managers to support us, on the other hand we want to emphasize the role of education and publicity."

The efforts are promising, but I fear old habits die hard and wonder about Hong Kong's commitment to improving the environment for its residents.

As for me, I will carry a cloth bag for groceries and the Tobacco Control hotline number in my mobile phone to do my part to help make this city eco-serious.
Source: http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/07/07/hong.kong.plastic.environment/index.html?iref=newssearch
 

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This is definitely good news, not only for Hong Kong, but for the world. I know Taiwan has been doing this for a while now and so has a few other places I've been to such as San Francisco.

Recently, I noticed that Ikea also stopped giving out plastic bags and you must buy their reusable bags if you want a bag at all. I believe this is the best solution as if you even give consumers an OPTION of paying just a little extra for plastic bags, there is no way they will remember to bring their own bags next time.
 

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Green storm over umbrella bags at malls
The Standard
Friday, August 07, 2009

Environmental group Greeners Action has rainy day blues over shopping malls dishing out 18 million plastic bags costing HK$2 million a year for customers to hold their dripping umbrellas.

They are distributed free despite the plastic bag levy which is entering its second month today.

The group's executive director, Angus Ho Hon-wai, said the territory's efforts to reduce the use of plastics bags are not "comprehensive."

"The `use-and-dump' culture is still evident in pre-packaged groceries and plastic umbrella bags," Ho said.

The group conducted a survey from July 3-10 at 40 city malls, such as Festival Walk and IFC.

Of the 809 shoppers interviewed, 77 percent said they use the "no-drip" bags, but only 34 percent ever recycle or reuse them.

The group is calling on all shopping malls and residential estates to stop providing umbrella bags, and is encouraging the use of more environmental friendly methods.

Umbrella racks, water-absorbent non-slip mats, and umbrella drying machines, are some of the recommended alternatives.

"These options would be a win-win solution for both malls and the environment," Ho said.

Sino Group executive director Sunny Yeung Kwong said the company is considering placing umbrella racks and providing drying services.

Yeung said 13 malls will start distributing biodegradable plastic umbrella bags as a temporary alternative.

Swire Properties said safety is its first and foremost consideration when it comes to thinking about alternatives.

"Distributing plastic bags on rainy days is to avoid slippery floors," a company spokesman said.
 

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Unfortunately the biggest lesson from plastic bags levy is the learning HK gov should gather on the effect a change in legislation has on their citizens behaviour but probably it will pass them by.

What other changes in legislation could be enacted to make HK better place to live?
 

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Planet-saving bag not so eco-smart
The Standard
Friday, June 04, 2010



Reusable shopping bags could be more harmful to the environment than the throwaway ones we're told are killing the planet.

A green group says the fabric bags' base raw material is also plastic, and if they are not used often enough they can have an even greater negative impact on the environment.

Green Sense says the recycled bag needs 10 times more plastic to produce than the throwaway one.

The group's project manager Ho Ka-po said, therefore, they have to reused more than 10 times before they can be considered more environmentally friendly than the one-off bags.

A Green Sense survey conducted in January showed about a third of the 600 respondents said they would leave the shopping bags unused, while 40 percent accumulated more than 10 such "recycle bags."

To promote more efficient use of the surplus bags, Green Sense launched a two-week initiative in March, collecting about 1,000 bags, which were then donated to St James' Settlement.

Some were made into handicrafts such as Octopus card covers.
 

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Public ideas on bag levy prove a bit taxing
The Standard
Monday, August 01, 2011

A proposal for retailers to keep the 50 HK cents levy on plastic bags when the scheme is expanded has attracted mixed reactions.

A Greeners Action survey of 990 people from June 21 to 26 found seven out of 10 people support expanding the plastic bag levy.

But when asked who should keep the levy, 46 percent believe all retailers should do so while 38 percent said it should go to the government's coffers.

When it comes to chain stores only, 83 percent said they should set aside the levy collected for conservation.

The survey comes at a time when the government is holding a public consultation - it ends on August 16 - on the extension of the levy scheme.

It was implemented on July 7, 2009, covering 3,000 stores and supermarkets, adding between HK$5.7 million and HK$6.7 million to the government coffers every quarter.

The expanded scheme will extend to 6,000 stores.

Those in favor of the status quo are concerned that small enterprises will profit from the levy.

"The mainland has reduced the use of plastic bags by two-thirds within three years," Greeners Action senior project officer Kwok Ying-ying said.

"On the other hand, remittance to the government involves high administration costs and workload. Retailers may also try to evade tax."

The group also slammed the government for not informing the public on exemptions, with only 42 percent saying they fully knew plastic bags for fresh produce are exempt.

"Even some retailers misunderstand that plastic bags for wet goods are also counted so they are strongly opposed to this [levy extension]," Kwok said.

The group also took issue at manufacturers' claim that the number of nonwoven bags, which also use plastic, has risen due to the levy.

Greeners Action executive director Angus Ho Hon-wai said shops should not excessively distribute nonwoven bags.

"And the public should not `get [them] whenever they can,' and say no to those bags instead," he said.
 

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More power in the pay-for-plastic push
The Standard
Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Most people not only support a 50 HK cents levy on plastic bags but would like to see it extended to cover all retailers.

Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah said there were over 1,000 submissions during a three- month consultation on the environmental levy scheme.

"The public generally wants the scheme to be continued and extended," Yau said yesterday, though more studies are needed on exemptions such as bags used for food hygiene and safety.

Once there is a consensus, he added, the government will work on legislation.

The consultation saw the government suggesting the scheme be extended from about 3,100 chain stores to 60,000 retail outlets. It also suggested non-woven bags be included and said the levy need not go to the government.

The Democratic Party said in a survey of 514 people early this month that almost 50 percent agreed on extending the scheme while 40 percent disagreed.

Also, 52.5 percent thought the scheme good policy, 47 percent felt it should also apply to non-woven bags, and 65 percent said the charges should go to the government.

The party said retailers now in the scheme should continue remitting the levy to the government while those joining an extended scheme could keep the money to offset administrative fees.

Legislator Kam Nai-wai said while his party backs the scheme there needs to be careful planning. "The government should not act hastily," he said. "Otherwise, the whole system will collapse."

The Ever Green Association said its poll in June showed more than 70 percent of 350 respondents backing an extension.

Helped by students from the University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the group also found 75 percent of respondents against the suggestion that retailers need not remit the levy to the government.

But some campaigners who back environmental care are against the scheme.

About 20 members of Momentum 107 rallied at the new government headquarters at Tamar calling for the levy to be scrapped. Convener Raymond Ho Man-kit said the group collected 600 petition letters during the consultation.

"The scheme encourages people to use more non-woven bags, which are not environmentally friendly," he said.

The plastic in one non-woven bag, Ho added, is equal to six regular plastic bags, so "the levy actually destroys the environment."
 

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Wider bag levy urged to turn tide on trash
The Standard
Friday, November 25, 2011

Plastic bags topped the list of debris collected during a recent coastal cleanup, indicating that the 50 HK cents bag levy is doing little to curb their usage.

The International Coastal Cleanup - an annual event coordinated by the Green Council and involving 14,000 volunteers from schools, companies and community groups - cleaned up 43 beaches from July 16 to November 11.

They removed more than 57 tonnes of refuse from the territory's shorelines. Among the trash collected were 7,645 pieces of plastic, which topped this year's list. This was followed by 5,883 Styrofoam pieces and 4,468 bits of canvas.

The proportion of plastic bags collected also increased from 9 percent of total refuse in 2010 to 12.5 percent this year.

Green Council chief executive Linda Ho Wai-ping said: "Marine debris, ranging from used plastic shopping bags to abandoned fishing nets, has become one of the most common hazards to the marine environment that threatens the ecosystem and human health."

She is concerned about the increasing amount of plastic bags found on the shorelines, indicating that the plastic bag levy has limited impact.

As the levy scheme does not cover all retailers, there are still hundreds of stores that distribute plastic bags to customers.

Ho believes that extending the scheme to all retailers may cut the use of plastic bags.

She urged the government to do more by educating the public to reduce the environmental impact of plastic bags.

Ho Kin-chung, dean of the School of Science and Technology at the Open University of Hong Kong, warned that health may be affected as people can absorb toxic substances when consuming fish that feed on plastic bags.

Ocean Park Conservation Foundation deputy director Timothy Ng Sau-kin said turtles may eat the bags thinking they are jellyfish.
 

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Five fined for failing to charge on handing out of plastic bags
7 May 2015
The Standard Excerpt

Five businesses were fined HK$2,000 each in the first five days since the mandatory plastic bag levy scheme entered a new stage on May 1.

Environmental Secretary Wong Kam-sing said yesterday the days of verbal warning are over, and those ignoring the levy are being fined on the spot.

The first to feel the new hardline inspectors are a hardware store, a pharmacy, a piano center, dental clinic and a grocery.

``The law is very clear that those selling non-foodstuffs should obey the shopping bag charging requirement,'' Wong said.

Asked about the effectiveness of the scheme, Wong replied: ``My understanding is that so far education publicity and enforcement have been positive. Compared with the arrangement last month, the number of cases has been decreasing.''

Wong said, on average, two to three warnings were issued daily after the mandatory levy scheme was extended from just 3,300 outlets to cover all types of stores on April 1.

``But now in May we are having prosecutions without prior warnings and the average is one case per day,'' he said. ``It is a good signal that people are starting to adapt to the new requirement, both at the retail and consumer levels.''

As many as 100,000 retailers started charging a plastic bag levy of 50 HK cents on April 1.
 

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BAGS OF QUESTIONS PILE UP
The Standard Excerpt
Thursday, November 19, 2015

Nearly three times more plastic bags are being dumped in landfills than the number of bags reported by retailers under the 50 HK cent levy scheme, Director of Audit David Sun Tak-kei says in his latest report.

This throws into doubt the Environmental Bureau's much-touted success of the levy scheme in reducing plastic bags and whether shops are accurately turning over levy collections to the government.

About HK$172 million from the levy was lost from 2010-13, The Standard calculation based on the audit report shows.

The first phase of the levy was implemented in July 2009 and by the end of last year a total of 3,543 shops of 48 chain groups - including supermarkets, convenience stores and personal-item stores - were registered to charge the levy. They were required to submit quarterly reports on the number of bags distributed.

The collected levy was then transferred to the Environmental Protection Department.
 

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More than 40 million one-off umbrella bags add to Hong Kong’s waste crisis
Greeners Action says property managers should consider alternatives including automatic umbrella dryers, racks, floor mats and recycling bins to prevent dripping
August 9, 2017
South China Morning Post Excerpt

Hongkongers may end up using as many as 41 million disposable umbrella bags during the wet season from June to September, prompting a green group to call for alternative environmentally-friendly options to deal with dripping brollies.

Around 90 per cent of the 53 shopping malls, commercial buildings and government facilities monitored by Greeners Action across Hong Kong this past month distributed the plastic freebies during the rain, mostly citing the need to keep their floors dry and preventing falls.

The average quantity distributed at the entrance of these buildings was about 288 bags every 45 minutes. Around 7 per cent of the venues had staff dishing them out to tenants or shoppers even if they were not sought.

Factoring in that tally and the average 576 hours of rainfall between June and September recorded each year by the Observatory, a total of 41 million umbrella bags would be doled out at the 53 properties.

“People use these bags only when they enter the property and they discard them when they leave. Time of use is short but the waste they generate is serious,” assistant project manager Yip Chui-man said.

“Whether it’s the property [management] or the public, both sides need to take a further step and reduce the use of these bags.”

Yip urged mall operators and property managers to consider other ways to prevent dripping umbrellas by deploying more automatic umbrella dryers, umbrella racks, floor mats and recycling bins at entrances. Using a different material for flooring could also help prevent slips.
 

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Bakeries hand out 267 million plastic bags, Green Earth says
Mar 26, 2019
The Standard Excerpt

While levies and campaigns have cut the use of plastic at least in some of the shops in Hong Kong, one sector has steadily moved in the opposite direction, RTHK reports.

According to an environmental group, Green Earth, most of the bakeries in Hong Kong are handing out an excessive amount of plastic bags – about three bags for each purchase.

It said the use of plastic bags by bakeries increased since the introduction of the levy. In 2017, bakeries used more than 267 million bags – up by 2 percent from 2009 and despite an overall drop of 5.6 percent in the total number of plastic bags handed out.

The Secretary for the Environment, Wong Kam-sing, has said that the government will review the 50 HK cent charge per bag introduced in 2009. He said authorities will study the levy and the exemptions granted to certain shops.

Under current rules, non-sealed items such as bread do not come under the levy.
 

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Food delivery firms to remove plastic use
RTHK Excerpt
Mar 10, 2020

Hong Kong's two main food delivery companies have teamed up with WWF-Hong Kong, and are aiming to remove all unsustainable packaging from their operations over the next five years.

WWF-Hong Kong is calling this a "major sectoral push" for the food and beverage industry, to stop any plastic leaking into nature by the end of this decade.

The pledge signed by Deliveroo and foodpanda -- who together account for 90 percent of Hong Kong's food delivery industry -- commits them to reduce single-use plastics.

The two companies have already attempted to reduce their plastic footprint by switching to paper bags, and making the inclusion of disposable cutlery in deliveries "opt-in".

Pedro Dias, operations director for foodpanda here, says in the future, they'll be attempting to introduce sustainable packaging options to their restaurant partners:

“What we’re trying to do at the first stage is sourcing subsidised and sustainable packaging because one of the challenges is that it tends to be more expensive to have sustainable packaging for restaurants. We need to understand that restaurants struggle to make ends meet, especially now” he said.

More : https://news.rthk.hk/rthk/en/component/k2/1513316-20200310.htm
 
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