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Hong Kong: Environmental Levy on Plastic Shopping Bags

(July 17, 2009) Effective July 7, 2009, registered retailers in Hong Kong are no longer allowed to provide free plastic shopping bags for customers; for each plastic shopping bag requested by the customer, the retailers must charge an environmental levy of HKD0.50 (about US$0.065), as prescribed by the Product Eco-Responsibility (Plastic Shopping Bags) Regulation. The prescribed retailers include large and chain supermarkets, convenience stores, personal health and beauty stores, and supermarkets inside department stores. (Environmental Levy Scheme on Plastic Shopping Bags, website of the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, (last visited July 14, 2009).)

The Regulation was made by the Secretary for the Environment under section 29 of the Product Eco-Responsibility Ordinance (No. 32 of 2008), after consultation with the Advisory Council on the Environment, and subject to the approval of the Legislative Council on April 23, 2009. The Ordinance was enacted in July 2008 and is “framework” legislation, providing a legal basis for implementing the producer responsibility schemes in Hong Kong. The environmental levy on plastic shopping bags is said to be the first scheme adopted under the Ordinance.

The scheme aims to provide a direct economic incentive to encourage the public to reduce use of plastic shopping bags. The HKD0.50-levy was decided on after a public opinion survey and voluntary campaigns and is deemed a sufficient incentive to reduce the use of plastic shopping bags, but not exceed the level generally accepted by the public. (The Product Eco-Responsibility Ordinance [in English & in Chinese], EPD website, &, respectively (last visited July 14, 2009); the Product Eco-Responsibility (Plastic Shopping Bags) Regulation.[in English & in Chinese], EPD website,
&, respectively (last visited July 14, 2009).)