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LCQ11 : Government policy on plastic bag reduction

    Following is a question by the Hon Lee Wing-tat and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works, Dr Sarah Liao, at the Legislative Council meeting today (November 29) :


     Regarding the reduction of discarded plastic bags, their disposal as well as the study on levying a tax on plastic bags, will the Government inform this Council of:

(a)  the number of plastic bags disposed of and the costs incurred in the disposal of these bags, and whether it knows the respective numbers of plastic bags distributed by supermarket chains, retail outlet chains, major fast food chains, catering groups and convenience stores, in each of the past three years;

(b)  the effectiveness of the "voluntary agreements on plastic bag reduction" signed between the Government and major retail outlet chains; and

(c)  the details of the study on levying a tax on plastic bags, including how the tax will be levied, the rate and the scope of the tax, the use of the revenue collected and the implementation timetable, etc?


Madam President,

(a)  According to the data of the Environmental Protection Department, 372,000 tonnes, 368,158 tonnes and 362,080 tonnes of plastic bag waste (including plastic shopping bags, plastic garbage bags and other plastic packaging bags) were disposed of at landfills in 2003, 2004 and 2005 respectively.  Based on the current average disposal cost of $125 per tonne for waste disposal at landfills, the costs of disposing plastic bag waste were $46.5 million, $46 million and $45.2 million in 2003, 2004 and 2005 respectively.

     In addition, according to a survey conducted at landfills at the end of last year, the number of plastic shopping bags disposed of at landfills was estimated to be about 23 million per day, over 30% of which came from supermarkets, convenience stores, bakeries and the catering business.

(b)  Since early this year, the Environmental Protection Department has respectively entered into a "Voluntary Agreement on Plastic Bag Reduction" with ten major supermarket chains and retail outlet chains.   They have pledged to reduce more than 120 million plastic bags in total within one year after signing the Agreement (reduction rate of about 15%) and to implement a series of measures to reduce the distribution of plastic bags, such as offering rebates or incentives to consumers who bring their own shopping bags and selling environmentally friendly shopping bags at the shops.  Although some of the Agreements have been implemented for only about six months, the number of plastic bags distributed by retailers who have signed the Agreement has already reduced by over 80 million.  It is most encouraging to find that the respective reductions achieved by the three major supermarket chains range from 24% to 29%, which have far exceeded their respective targets of 15%.

(c)  To reduce the indiscriminate use of plastic shopping bags, we have commissioned a consulting firm to conduct a study on plastic shopping bag levy, including its feasibility, options, level of charge and scope etc.  The consulting firm will evaluate the environmental benefits of various options and their impact on the trades.  The study report is expected to be completed by the end of this year.  We will consult the public and the trades extensively on the proposal in due course.

Ends/Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Issued at HKT 12:01