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Plastic Bag Levy Likely by End of 2008
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The government is likely to impose HK$0.5 plastic bag levy by the end of next year, an Environmental Protection Department (EPD) source said yesterday.


The government will present a bill to Legislative Council in the next legislative session for deliberation. If the bill sails through the LegCo without a hitch, the government will start collecting the plastic bag levy as early as the end of next year.


Green groups like the Friends of the Earth and the Hong Kong Conservancy Association strongly supported the levy imposition.


However, the Hong Kong Plastic Bags Manufacturers Association and Hong Kong Retail Management Association regarded the levy as unfair as it only targets the large/chain supermarkets and convenient stores.


In the two-month period between May 28 and July 31 this year, the government consulted the public on the imposition of a plastic bag tax.


The government also commissioned a poll involving 1,102 respondents, of whom 84 percent supported the principle of 'the polluters pays' and 66 percent supported the idea of a plastic bag tax respectively.


And among those who supported a plastic bag tax, 76 percent said it would only be effective if the levy was fixed at HK$0.5 or higher and 78 percent said they would use fewer plastic bags if a tax was levied.


An EPD source said the purpose of the levy is not to increase government revenue. It is aimed at cutting consumption by 1 billion plastic bags per year.


If the people think HK$0.5 cents is too high a levy, it will have a deterrent effect and people will use fewer plastic bags, said the source.


It is hoped the law will come into effect in July 2008. Then, the government will register the shops involved and allow them time to revise their computer systems before they can collect the tax for the government.


A year after the law becomes effective, the government will review as to when the law will be extended to shops other than large supermarkets and convenience stores.


According to the government, 20 percent of the 8 billion plastic shopping bags dumped at the landfills annually come from the large supermarkets, convenience stores, personal care product shops and bakeries.


The government has made a voluntary agreement with these sales outlets to offer concessions to customers who do not use any plastic shopping bags and to encourage customers to bring their own bags.


The government said Ireland and Taiwan reduced the use of plastic shopping bags by 90 percent and 80 percent respectively in the first year after a similar tax was imposed.


(China Daily September 4, 2007)

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