Shoppers unprepared to go green on 'No Plastic Bag Day'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 March, 2009, 12:00am

A campaign by major stores to stop giving out plastic bags got off to a lukewarm start yesterday.

Some shoppers said they were either unaware of the new measure or found it inconvenient to carry their own bags. Others said they had a right to receive free plastic bags.

More than 2,000 stores from 18 retail chains are taking part in the campaign, which extends the current 'No Plastic Bag Day' from a weekly to a daily event. Shoppers will not receive a plastic bag at cash counters unless they ask for it. They will not be charged for the bags, although some retailers will encourage shoppers to make donations to green groups. The aim is to save 400 million bags a year.

Caroline Mak Shui-king, chairwoman of Hong Kong Retail Management Association, said people needed time to adapt. 'It takes time to change the consumer's behaviour, but we are optimistic about that.'

Ms Mak said 12 other retail chains had recently promised to join the campaign and she hoped more media reports and publicity could attract greater attention.

Observations by a South China Morning Post reporter at major supermarket chains and convenience stores found that more than half of shoppers still asked for bags. A women in her 70s said she would not consider forgoing the bags.

'It is my right to get plastic bags because I have paid,' said Ms Ma, who asked for two bags at Wellcome. 'It would be extremely inconvenient if I don't get any plastic bags, especially when I buy a lot of things.'

Liu Chi-kuen, who asked for a supermarket bag after buying a packet of biscuits, said he would not bring his own bag. 'I never know when I will be shopping. It would be foolish if I carried a shopping bag around all day without buying anything.'

He did not know that shops would stop giving out plastic bags yesterday and felt it would not be effective in saving plastic bags. 'To Hongkongers, convenience is the most important thing. If there are free plastic bags, of course we will ask for one.'

But a man who gave his name as Mr Yung said he might change his habits and try to remember to take his own bags when going out.

Other shoppers said bringing their own bags had become a habit. 'Whenever I go out I carry a shopping bag in my handbag. It is no trouble at all,' a woman who gave her name as Ms Fung said.

She said bringing her own bags was actually more convenient, as the bags supermarkets gave out were too thin to hold heavier things.

A Wellcome spokeswoman said it found the public response towards the campaign 'encouraging', but could not report the number of bags saved so far. 'Some branches have reported that the feedback was encouraging, though it is inevitable some shoppers who forgot to bring their bags asked for bags.'