Govt proposes raising plastic bag levy to HK$1

The government on Wednesday proposed doubling the plastic bag levy to HK$1, and a bill is expected to be tabled to Legco as early as the end of this quarter. 

Last week, government advisers suggested raising the levy from the current HK$0.50 to HK$1 or HK$2, saying the idea was based on the results of a public consultation exercise.

In papers submitted to the legislature, the Environment Bureau said for a start, it wants to double the plastic bag charge to give it a stronger deterrent effect.

It also proposed scrapping the existing levy exemption for frozen food and food items fully wrapped in non-airtight packaging. 

The exemption for takeaway food will remain but will be limited to one plastic bag for each order.

“For ensuring smooth transition to the enhanced scheme, we will allow a preparatory period before the commencement of relevant legislations, and put forward implementation guidelines to help the retail sector and the public to get prepared for the enhancement measures,” the bureau wrote.

It noted that when the levy was first introduced in 2015, the number of plastic bags disposed of dropped by a quarter, but the figure rebounded in the following years.

Meanwhile, the bureau said it hopes to put in place municipal waste charging in the second half of next year. 

It said it will give out free designated garbage bags to all 2.9 million households in the initial phase of the scheme’s implementation.

The founder of The Green Earth, Edwin Lau, welcomed the plan to double the plastic bag levy.

“If you look at the disposal of plastic bags in Hong Kong, it’s on a rising trend year after year. The latest figures from the government is that, every day we throw away over 800 tonnes of plastic bags, it’s quite a serious problem,” he told RTHK.

Lau noted that the increase is long overdue, noting that the Environment Bureau had talked about reviewing the levy back in 2019. He urged the bureau to spell out exactly when the higher levy will be charged.