Clear The Air News Blog Rotating Header Image


Nearly three times more plastic bags are being dumped in landfills than the number of bags reported by retailers under the 50 HK cent levy scheme, Director of Audit David Sun Tak-kei says in his latest report.

This throws into doubt the Environmental Bureau’s much-touted success of the levy scheme in reducing plastic bags and whether shops are accurately turning over levy collections to the government.

About HK$172 million from the levy was lost from 2010-13, The Standard calculation based on the audit report shows.

The first phase of the levy was implemented in July 2009 and by the end of last year a total of 3,543 shops of 48 chain groups – including supermarkets, convenience stores and personal-item stores – were registered to charge the levy. They were required to submit quarterly reports on the number of bags distributed.

The collected levy was then transferred to the Environmental Protection Department.

This April, the levy scheme was renamed to a charging scheme. It was extended to cover the entire retail sector with more than 100,000 outlets.

The stores get to keep the charges and are no longer required to keep records of distribution of bags. The audit director’s Report No 65 found that based on the department’s records, 228.9 million bags were distributed by retailers from 2010 to 2013. This compared with 572 million bags in landfills – a discrepancy of 2.5 times.

Last year, registered retailers reported their outlets distributed 70.7 million bags and paid HK$35.4 million in levies to the department.

However, the department did not have landfill survey statistics for 2014 yesterday.

The biggest discrepancy was seen in the first year: 153 million bags were dumped in landfills, 3.1 times the reported 49.8 million bags in 2010. Next was in 2012 when 156 million bags were found in landfills, or 2.6 times the 59.5 million bags reported.

The Audit Commission said the number of plastic bags in landfill surveys might not accurately reflect the effectiveness of the levy scheme, and asked the department to consider doing consumer surveys to assess the scheme instead.

But a spokeswoman for the Environment Bureau said the bags counted in landfill surveys covered all those collected, including bags from non- registered retailers.

She added that even some outlets of registered retailers may not fall into the requirements of paying the levy, as only those that sell food and drink, medicine or first-aid items, and personal hygiene or beauty products in the same shop are registered.

Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said the department would consider the audit’s advice.

Green Sense suggested the government raise the plastic bag charge to HK$1 to reduce use.

“We are worried that consumers have grown to a more relaxed attitude toward paying the 50 cents tax after six years of the implementation,” said project manager Gabrielle Ho Ka-po.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *