85pc dip in plastic bag use since start of levy

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 July, 2009, 12:00am

The use of plastic bags dropped by up to 85 per cent after the levy kicked in two days ago, a green group said, hailing the 'proud' start.

But it also warned that for the levy to remain effective, it might have to be raised - from 50 HK cents currently - when the economy bounced back.

Greeners Action also urged officials to be vigilant in promoting the levy, and to extend it to cover outlets of all dry products. The levy is currently imposed on shoppers at large or chain retail outlets selling food and drinks, personal-care or beauty products, medicine and first-aid items simultaneously.

The group tracked bag use at 18 Wellcome and ParknShop supermarket outlets in 15 districts for two days - June 29 and this Tuesday - between 9.30am and 10.30am.

Not only did the number of plastic bags used drop by 85 per cent, from 2,742 to 403, but the number of shoppers who used their own bag or did not ask for a plastic bag also grew by 56 per cent, from 1,946 to 3,036.

Despite the strong start, Greeners Action said that the government should be prepared to adjust the amount of the levy when the economy rebounded.

'We are confident that the public would save every dollar whenever possible now,' said Angus Ho Hon-wai, the group's chairman. 'But we are concerned that when the economy recovers, people will not feel the pinch of the 50 cents as much and the incentive to use fewer bags would be weakened.'

He cited the example of Ireland, where authorities successfully cut the average number of plastic bags used per person per year from 328 to 21 after introducing a levy of HK$1.50 in 2002. They then raised the levy to HK$2.20 in 2007, after the average number used crept up to 30.

In Hong Kong, one person uses about 1,200 plastic bags a year on average, or about three a day.

Mr Ho said it was important to continue to assess the levy's effect over the next six months.

The Retail Management Association said major retailers reported a decline in sales since the levy was imposed.

A spokeswoman for Wellcome yesterday said the company recorded a single-digit fall in sales on the first day of the levy, but did not disclose details, saying it was too early to come to a conclusion.

Since the introduction of the levy, she said, 80 per cent of shoppers had been taking along their own bags. Ten per cent of them used plastic bags, while 10 per cent did not use any bag.

A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Department said yesterday that it would assess the effectiveness of the levy and consider ways to extend it to other retailers.

Bringing their own

The number of shoppers who used their own bag or did not ask for a plastic bag rose from 1,946 to 3,036

This represents an increase of: 56%