Responses of some shops to bag levy have not been eco-friendly

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 July, 2015, 3:50pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 July, 2015, 3:50pm

Environmental Protection Department officials inspected more than 13,000 shops in May and found most retailers comply with the expanded plastic shopping bag charging law (effective from April 1) where only 15 fixed penalties were issued under the law.

This law is just like a mirror reflecting the real "face" of retailers when it comes to deciding between profits and environmental protection.

The 759 Store has chosen an aggressive way to support the law. The chain store decided to charge for all types of bags, from April 1, even those that are exempted.

Although customers complained at the beginning, Friends of the Earth appreciates that the 759 Store has shown itself to be decisive and committed to help reduce the excessive use of bags for the sake of the environment.

Uniqlo announced in advance that it would change to paper shopping bags from April 1. I persuaded Uniqlo to support the bag charging law instead of getting around it.

It is now charging 50 cents for both paper and plastic bags. I went to one of its shops on April 1 to observe what happened. When customers realised that there was a bag charge, most of them did not take a Uniqlo shopping bag, but used their own bags.

H&M has chosen an escape route to avoid charging a bag fee for its shopping bags (originally made of plastic) by changing them to paper-made bags on April 1.

I questioned H&M about this change as it claimed it has been using recycled plastic to make its bags.

H&M responded by acknowledging our plastic waste problems, and therefore decided to change to paper bags to reduce plastic waste for our city. If H&M was genuine about reducing waste, it should simply follow the law to cut down the use of bags.

Changing to paper-made bags on the effective date of the plastic bag charging law seems to be a business decision without due consideration to our environmental problems.

There are shops other than H&M that have changed to paper bags to get around the law.

I urge them to support the law by putting a charge on their bags as this will help reduce waste for a greener environment without hurting their profits.

If the business sector is genuine about sustainability, it must not ignore the environment, which is one of the three pillars to support sustainable development.

Edwin Lau Che-feng, head of community engagement and partnership, Friends of the Earth (HK)