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Adopt "BYOB" habit to support plastic shopping bag charging and help save the environment (with photos)

     To publicise the full implementation of plastic shopping bag (PSB) charging to all retail outlets starting from April 1, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) held a launch ceremony at a shopping mall in Tsuen Wan today (March 28) to call for action and support from members of the public in adopting the green habit of "BYOB" (bring your own bag).

     Speaking at the launch ceremony, the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, said the full implementation of PSB charging aims to further reduce PSB usage. He noted that the number of PSBs distributed by registered retail outlets has declined remarkably by about 90 per cent since the introduction of the environmental levy on PSBs in July 2009. With full implementation of PSB charging at more than 100,000 retail outlets, supplemented by increasing public awareness of "BYOB", the new measures would help reduce the use of PSBs, he said.

     Mr Wong pointed out that, taking into account the daily needs of the general public and common trade practices of businesses, some PSBs are exempted from the PSB charge, including PSBs used for food hygiene reasons. PSBs exempted from the charge include those used to contain a food item that is unpackaged, contained in non-airtight packaging or in a frozen or chilled state, as well as those used for pre-packaging of goods. However, he stressed that under the principle of "use less, waste less", the public should avoid indiscriminate use of PSBs, even though some PSBs are exempted from the PSB charge.

     Mr Wong called on the public to bring their own reusable shopping bags when going out, which can help them avoid PSB charges and at the same time help reduce waste at source and ease the pressure on landfills. He also urged retailers to distribute fewer plastic bags and avoid over-packaging to reduce waste, and the income generated from the PSB charge should be used for the purposes of supporting environmental protection in Hong Kong.

     After the launch ceremony, Mr Wong visited some nearby retail shops to remind them of the new measures under the full implementation which will take effect on April 1. From that date onwards, all retail outlets should not distribute plastic bags to customers for free, unless such use is exempted from the PSB charge. They will have to charge customers not less than 50 cents for each plastic bag. Retailers contravening the requirements may be liable to a fixed penalty of $2,000 or even prosecution.

     In the first month after the commencement of the new measures, the EPD will first give verbal warnings to retailers who contravene the legal requirements. Enforcement action will follow should the retailers concerned fail to rectify the non-compliance. Starting from May 1, no prior warnings will be given by the EPD and enforcement action will be taken should any contraventions be found.

     Mr Wong said he believes that the arrangements could enable retailers and members of the public to better adapt to the new requirements so that PSB charging could thus be implemented smoothly.

     Also officiating at today's launch ceremony were the Chairman of the Environmental Campaign Committee, Mr Lam Chiu-ying; the Chairman of the Waste Management Subcommittee under the Advisory Council on the Environment, Professor Jonathan Wong; Legislative Council Members Dr Kenneth Chan and Mr Michael Tien; the Chairman of the Environmental Association Limited, Mr Cheung Chi-wai; the Executive Director of Greeners Action, Mr Angus Ho; the Chief Executive Officer of Green Power, Dr Man Chi-sum; and the Policy Advocacy Manager of the World Green Organisation, Mr Angus Wong.

Ends/Saturday, March 28, 2015
Issued at HKT 16:30


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