Monday, 30 March 2015

Bagging More Confusion

Get ready for more plastic bag restrictions from April 1
On April 1, Hong Kong will start implementing further restrictions on the use of plastic bags in the city. All retail stores selling goods that are not food-related must charge HK$0.50 for a plastic bag, though wet markets are still safe because of hygiene issues.

However, we can already imagine supermarket cashier staff will have arguments with customers over what can and cannot be charged for a plastic bag. Apparently staff are freaking out because they are worried they will get into trouble with their employers if they don't enforce this new regulation properly.

From 2009 until now, a levy was imposed on major outlets to charge HK$0.50 for a plastic bag. While the government claims this cut down 90 percent of the plastic bags in the city, there still seemed to be a lot of them around.

Wet market stalls only have small bags available, and so you always need more than one bag, and even then the seller will put those small bags into one big bag... what a waste!

And then in supermarkets, there are people who refuse to pay HK$0.50 at the checkout and use those flat-top plastic bags for fruits and vegetables to put their items in there. Many use it to carry small milk cartons and yogurt. But from Wednesday onwards they will be charged HK$.050.

Items that are not vacuum sealed or in its own packaging, will not be charged for those thin see-through plastic bags. Things like toilet paper in its own plastic packaging will not be subject to the HK$0.50 either.

So it's kind of confusing really -- unless you just remember that anything not vacuum sealed and edible will mean a free plastic bag.

All this confusion, say local green groups, is because of legislative councillors dragging their feet on this issue and stipulating a number of exemptions before passing the bill over a year ago.

And then it's taken this long to finally put it into action, though not everyone is sure what is going on.

Basically the best rule of thumb is whenever you walk out the door of your home, carry a cloth bag with you because you never know if you'll need to buy something. The local stationary store won't be able to give a free plastic bag anymore, nor the shoe store or electronics shop.

Will these new restrictions further cut down on the use of plastic bags? Probably only slightly, and the use of paper bags will jump. And that HK$0.50 -- who gets to keep that? In the first phase, the money went to the government, but now apparently shopkeepers big and small get to keep the extra money. Why is that?

This means tycoons like Li Ka-shing will make even more money from those people who forgot or didn't bother to bring a plastic bag with them while they shop at Park 'n' Shop, Fusion, International, Great...

Perhaps that alone would be a good incentive to bring a cloth bag to prevent the 17th richest man according to Forbes from earning an extra HK$0.50...




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