Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Plastic bags levy

HK lawmakers are closer to passing an environmental levy to cut plastic bag use in Hong Kong. “No Plastic Bag Day” campaigns may become permanent. According to a report released recently by Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department, Hong Kong throws out over 8 billion plastic shopping bags every year (that’s more than 3 bags per person a day).

The proposed plan will work in phases—chain or large supermarkets will be among the first retailers required to charge HK 50 cents for each plastic bag. This alone is predicted to cut plastic bag use in Hong Kong by a billion in just one year.

Though i am in favour of this tax, i can't stop thinking that it comes short of hitting the nail on the head.
A more effective move would be to ban all non-bio-degradable bags, so that retailers would switch to the slightly more expensive bio-degradable ones, and charge consumers 50 cents to recoup the cost.
We would buy only the bags we need as bin-liners, and learn to bring our own bag.

One more note: why stop at plastic bags?? HK lawmakers should tax the even more common litter elements: styrofoam cups and lunch boxes (from every fast food outlet), and plastic bottles.
Such a tax would force fast-food outlets to opt for recycled cardboard boxes instead of styrofoam ones, or to give a discount to people who bring their own re-usable lunch box.
Most office workers have coffee in disposable cups from the same coffee shop everyday. If they were charged for the cup, they would certainly start bringing their own flask!

And if the government were serious about the environment, it would set clear guidelines for the import of goods, requiring producers to reduce excessive packaging. There is no reason why fruit should be individually wrapped in a styrofoam mesh, or consumer products come in fancy boxes twice as big as the product itself. As most goods are imported, it would not hurt the local economy (the usual excuse for inaction!)

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