Government should scrap this pointless plastic bag levy

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 November, 2008, 12:00am

The Hong Kong Retail Management Association wants the plastic bag levy shelved for at least two years, after the Environment Bureau said it planned to introduce a regulation covering the details of the levy and its implementation ('Drop plastic bag levy for 2 years, says retail group', November 25). It is due to come into force next year. The association said the levy was too complicated to implement and that huge administration costs would be incurred when collecting the levy for the government.

Critics have said all along that the purpose and objective of the levy are illogical and flawed. The levy will not solve Hong Kong's environmental problems and is simply a regressive tax that the city doesn't need. Rather than shelving it for two years, the government should scrap it.

The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) stated in its August 2007 public consultation report that the objective of its levy proposal was to reduce the 'indiscriminate use' of plastic shopping bags through an economic disincentive. Yet it has not been able to define what constitutes 'indiscriminate use'.

In the report the EPD said almost one billion plastic shopping bags could be saved each year with the levy but it did not explain how it reached this figure. The department alleged we have been disposing of more than three plastic shopping bags per person per day but failed to provide a reasonable clarification when the reliability of such an incredible figure was challenged.

Plastic supermarket bags are evidently contributing to and genuinely protecting the city's environmental hygiene, as the public has been sensibly reusing them before finally using them as garbage bags. So how could the EPD say such bags are major contributors to our environmental problems? These bags are non-toxic, pose no health threat and do not significantly contribute to the volume of waste in landfills. But wasn't our landfills fast reaching capacity the original problem?

Being the principal official responsible for the bag levy, Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah should respond to the issues raised if the administration's accountability system still exists.

Alex F. T. Chu, Clear Water Bay