The indiscriminate use of plastic shopping bags (PSBs) is a major and visible environmental problem in Hong Kong. Our landfill survey in 2005 indicates that some eight billion plastic shopping bags are disposed of at landfills every year. This translates into more than three plastic shopping bags per person per day, which apparently go beyond our needs.
First Phase of the PSB Charging Scheme (7 July 2009－31 March 2015)
The first phase of the PSB Charging Scheme (the Scheme) was implemented on 7 July 2009 targeting some 3,000 retail outlets mostly being supermarkets, convenience stores and medicare and cosmetics stores. The amount of PSBs disposed of at landfills originated from the regulated sectors has dropped significantly from some 660 million before the implementation of the scheme (in mid-2009) to some 150 million one year after the implementation (in mid-2010).
However, the effectiveness of the first phase of the Scheme was limited by its narrow scope of coverage, and the amount of PSBs disposed of at landfills originated from other retail sectors have been on the increase. As such, in May 2011, the Government launched a 3-month consultation in extending the Scheme. On the whole, the community’s feedback was supportive to extend the Scheme to cover all retail outlets so as to further address the problem of excessive PSBs use in Hong Kong. The Product Eco-responsibility (Amendment) Bill 2013 was tabled at the Legislative Council (LegCo) in May 2013 and after scrutiny, the LegCo passed the Product Eco-responsibility (Amendment) Ordinance 2014, and the full implementation of the Scheme has taken effect since 1 April 2015. The Product Eco-responsibility (Plastic Shopping Bags) Regulation (Cap. 603A) sets out the implementation details of the scheme.
For information and statistics relating to the first phase of the PSB Levy Scheme, please click here.
Current Phase of the PSB Charging Scheme
The current phase of the Scheme has been fully implemented in the entire retail sector since 1 April 2015. As compared with the first phase, the current phase of the Scheme has the following key features:
Ban on free PSB distribution at all points of retail sales in the territory
Save for exemptions, retailers should charge at least 50 cents for each PSB provided to consumers
Exemptions on PSB use for food hygiene reasons
All plastic bags including flat-top bags are subject to regulation
Retention of the PSB charges by sellers
For implementation details, please click here.