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Bags be gone; thin plastics to be banned
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The distribution of thin plastic bags will be banned on the mainland in less than five months, and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government may tax the bags by early next year.

The State Council announced in a circular yesterday that its ban on the mainland will start June 1. Under the order, shops and grocery stores, for instance, won't be allowed to bag up goods in free plastic bags.

Even the buying and selling of the thin bags - less than 0.025mm thick - will be banned on the mainland, according to the circular.

The State Council members hope the new measures limit the use of plastic bags and save energy, the circular says.

Also yesterday, the Hong Kong Government introduced a levy of HK$0.50 on plastic bag to the Legislative Council. The action comes under the Product Eco-responsibility Bill.

Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau told the council that the tax could first be applied to chain supermarkets, convenience stores and personal health stores for about a year. After that, the government would consider expanding the levy's reach.

"The levy can effectively limit the overuse of plastic shopping bags in Hong Kong," Yau said. "Our landfill survey shows that Hong Kong people use more than three plastic bags, on average, every day, which is much higher than overseas.

"Public consultation from May to July last year revealed that the majority of Hong Kong people support the levy.

"We estimate that the levy (early next year on those initial retailers) will help reduce about 1 billion, or 50 percent, of the plastic bags used in Hong Kong each year," he said.

Edwin Lau Che-feng, director of Friends of the Earth Hong Kong, said the State Council's new measures showed the mainland's determination to change people's habit of overusing plastic bags.

With the mainland as an example, he hoped the levy on plastic bags could be introduced in Hong Kong as soon as possible.

However, he also pointed out that the government did not make an initial assessment on electrical waste.

For instance, he said many people have thrown out their old televisions and bought high-definition ones.

"Our landfills are already full. Where should the old televisions go?" he asked. "The government should promote responsible consumption among Hong Kong people."

(China Daily HK Edition January 10, 2008)

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