Hong Kong grocer fined HK$5,000 for violating plastic bag levy

Local store owner first in city to be criminally charged since law’s introduction last year

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 December, 2016, 9:39pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 December, 2016, 10:18pm

A Hong Kong grocery store owner was fined HK$5,000 on Thursday for failing to charge customers for plastic bags – the city’s first such case since the bag levy was introduced last year.

The levy requires all retailers to charge customers no less than 50 cents for a plastic bag unless the bags are to be used for holding food for hygiene reasons, packaging or non-retail purposes such as medical or dry cleaning services.

Kwun Tong Court heard that two officers from the Environmental Protection Department visited Cheung Hing Grocery on Un Chau Street in Cheung Sha Wan on July 19.

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The officers bought a packaged coffee for HK$40 and asked for a plastic bag from the cashier, who then provided a red plastic bag for free. The receipt did not show a charge for the bag.

The court said the store owner had breached the Product Eco-responsibility Ordinance for failing to charge for the bag.

A department spokesman said it was the first time someone had been criminally charged since the levy took effect in April last year.

He added the owner had previously received fixed penalty notices in December and February for not charging the levy and for offering customers a rebate – a discount on the goods equivalent to 50 cents – to offset the levy.

Greeners Action executive director Angus Ho Hon-wai said the government should continue its enforcement.

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However, a Cheung Hing employee surnamed Cheng said the law made business more difficult.

“People in this neighbourhood care about every cent they spend,” he said, adding the government should have done more to educate the public.

Officers have conducted more than 71,000 inspections at local retail outlets since the levy began. As of last month, 302 fixed penalty notices for HK$2,000 each had been issued to retailers.