The Legislative Assembly (AL) has passed the outline of a government-drafted bill which proposes the launch of a charge scheme on plastic carrier bags for retail businesses.
Secretary for Transport and Public Works Raimundo do Rosário introduced the bill during a plenary session in the legislature’s hemicycle on Friday.
The bill proposes that the amount to be charged for each plastic carrier bag is to be determined by the chief executive in an executive order after the legislature has passed by bill.
The government has said that the proposed plastic carrier bag charges will be added to the respective businesses’ income.
The bill proposes that exemptions can be made for plastic carrier bags used for unpackaged food or medicinal products, for non-hermetically packaged food or medicinal products, and for food or medicinal products that need to be kept in a cold or hot state.
The bill proposes that the charge scheme cover all retail outlets, “particularly including” pharmacies, food souvenir shops, bakeries, cosmetics shops, beauty product shops, personal care product shops, supermarkets, convenience stores, and department stores.
The bill proposes that when the plastic carrier bag charge scheme is implemented in the future, the business owners will have to display promotional materials – such as posters – about the charge scheme in clearly visible locations in their retail premises.
The bill proposes that shops providing customers with free plastic carrier bags will be fined 1,000 patacas for each case. Shops owners failing to display the promotional materials in their shops will face a fine of 600 patacas each time.
The government launched a 45-day public consultation in December 2015 on the possible implementation of a plastic carrier bag charge scheme in the retail sector, when the government proposed that one pataca should be charged per bag.
The bill will now be reviewed in detail by a standing committee of the legislature before its final debate and article-by-article vote in a plenary session.
Rosário also revealed that the government currently does not plan to draft any legislation on other measures aiming to reduce the use of other disposable plastic products.
However, Environmental Protection Bureau (DSPA) Raymond Tam Vai Man, who also attended Friday’s plenum, promised “proper measures” to encourage restaurants to reduce the use of plastic for takeaways.
In Hong Kong, the first phase of a plastic carrier bag charge scheme – with HK$0.5 charged per bag – was implemented in July 2009, covering supermarkets, convenience stores and cosmetics shops, and the implementation of the scheme was extended to all retail outlets in April 2015.