Survey shows public backs levy on plastic shopping bags

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 January, 2008, 12:00am

I refer to the letter by Alex Tam ('Surveys on plastic shopping bags inadequate', January 1).

Mr Tam was correct to say our per capita disposal figure of plastic shopping bags is much higher than those of our overseas counterparts.

This finding is based upon an on-site waste survey conducted by the Environmental Protection Department at refuse transfer stations and landfills. Following well-established methodology adopted in the department's annual waste survey, waste samples from domestic, industrial and commercial sources were randomly selected, and plastic shopping bags were counted and sources tabulated. The survey indicates that more than eight billion plastic shopping bags are disposed of at landfills every year, hence the disposal figure of more than three plastic shopping bags per person per day.

In fact, the problem of indiscriminate use of plastic shopping bags is acknowledged by the public.

The public opinion survey referred to by Mr Tam indicated that nearly 90 per cent of the public agreed there was room to reduce the use of plastic shopping bags and 66 per cent of the public supported or strongly supported the introduction of an environmental levy. The survey was conducted by Chinese University's Centre of Communication Research and the sample size was consistent with that of public opinion surveys of a similar nature.

While the proposed environmental levy aims to reduce the use of plastic shopping bags at source, the department also encourages the reuse of plastic shopping bags.

The extent of the indiscriminate disposal of plastic shopping bags in Hong Kong is such that there will still be ample scope for reusing these bags as bin liners, even after the introduction of the environmental levy.

Also the heavy-gauge plastic bin liners, to which Mr Tam referred, are generally sold at a price, and should not be abused as is the case of free plastic shopping bags. Reduction and reuse of plastic shopping bags are complementary and should be practised in our daily living.

Alfred Lee, assistant director, Environmental Protection Department