Retailers' group right to oppose ill-conceived plastic bag levy

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 December, 2008, 12:00am

I welcome the letter from Philippe Giard of the Hong Kong Retail Management Association, arguing that the plastic bag levy should not be implemented ('Consultants' advice ignored', December 20).

Mr Giard says that in pushing through this levy, the government has acted against its own consultants' recommendation of a voluntary reduction measure. When the levy proposal was first floated ('Plastic bag levy to cut one billion bags a year', May 22, 2007), it was challenged and the then secretary for the environment Sarah Liao Sau-tung was urged to reconsider the validity of her proposed 'green' tax. The problem is not with the bags but with what is inside them.

Even if all the affected retailers were to give no plastic bags, the Retail Management Association says only 770 million at most could be saved each year (0.3 bag per capita per day). So where did the figures of cutting one billion bags a year and disposing of three plastic bags per capita per day, which the government used as justification for its action, come from?

In his letter ('Bag levy will act as economic disincentive', December 9), assistant director of the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) Alfred Lee claims that the abuse of plastic shopping bags is 'a visible environmental problem in Hong Kong'. The word 'visible' strikes me profoundly but I am unsure if he was seeing things that an ordinary person could not.

Mr Lee says his department recognises the need for environmental hygiene in devising this levy scheme. But he obviously can't see that plastic shopping bags are finally used by most people as rubbish bags, thereby protecting our environmental hygiene.

Up to now, the EPD has not been able to come up with a proper definition for its alleged 'abuse of plastic shopping bags'. By imposing a levy on these bags, it seems that the act of giving out 'free' bags by the supermarkets would be the abuse. But such an act cannot remotely constitute a reasonable ground for the government to impose a levy.

It is time that the government made the decision to scrap this risible bag levy.

Alex F. T. Chu, Clear Water Bay