Hong Kong is set to double levy on plastic bags in late December and charge producers or suppliers extra for glass beverage bottles in the 1st quarter of 2023 as part of its waste reduction goal.
Government officials confirmed that they will launch the legislative process to strengthen the plastic shopping bag (PSB) charging scheme by amending the Product Eco-responsibility Ordinance and expand the producer responsibility scheme for glass beverage containers (GPRS). Both proposals are part of the Waste Blueprint for Hong Kong 2035.
Environmental authorities proposed doubling the plastic bag levy from HK 50 cents to at least HK$1 following a 13-year freeze, and to stop granting exemptions for frozen, chilled food as well as food products with airtight packaging, under which plastic bags are currently offered to customers for free for hygiene reasons.
Once the new law is enacted, consumers can only get one free plastic bag per order when buying takeaway food.
They also proposed formulating a product eco-responsibility regulation to introduce a recycling levy for glass beverage containers, with a proposed rate of HK 98 cents per litre. Both producers and suppliers of beverages in such glass containers are subject to the levy.
Under the proposed glass bottle scheme, producers have to submit annual audit reports to keep the use of such containers in check, while a licensing system will be established to monitor the storage, treatment, reprocessing or recycling of glass container waste. Bars and clubs are the main producers of such waste in Hong Kong.
Environmental groups however have slammed the proposed changes as too little, too late. Edmond Lau Shiu-long, Senior Project Officer at The Green Earth said, “I doubt the flat rate can reflect the recycling incentive, especially for more expensive products such as liquors and alcohol. The rate should be proportionate to the product price.”
Wing Chin Chun-wing, Chairman of the Hong Kong Bar and Club Association, said that although the glass bottle levy was ‘reasonably priced’, he was reluctant to see the government taxing wine merchants. “Those vintners are our upstream sector. They will just pass on the increase in costs to us, especially now that the economic environment is so bad. And we have no choice but to bear the cost ourselves.”