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Friends of the Earth (HK) Comment on Plastic Shopping Bag Charging Scheme and Producer Responsibility Scheme on Glass Beverage Containers




· Exemption for takeaway items should be removed

· Financial incentives should be provided to drive waste reduction efforts

· Levy amount should depend on the beverage type

· Both schemes should to be regularly reviewed

· Data from the schemes should be more transparent

· Producer responsibility needs to be extended to other sources of waste items


 

The Legislative Council reviewed the Plastic Shopping Bag (PSB) Charging Scheme and the Producer Responsibility Scheme on Glass Beverage Containers (GPRS) recently. On the former, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) proposed to double the $0.50 PSB levy and remove exemptions for frozen/chilled goods and some non-airtight packaged foodstuff. For the latter, EPD suggested fixing a $0.98 levy per litre-volume of beverage products.

Friends of the Earth (HK) welcomes both motions. The PSB Charging Scheme has not been reviewed for almost a decade, and the numerous exemptions in place has hobbled the scheme’s effectiveness. The GPRS is still unimplemented, despite the regulatory framework passing in 2016.

To ensure that both schemes serve their intended purposes of tackling the waste crisis, Friends of the Earth (HK) urges the government to consider the following suggestions:

1.Exemption on PSB use for takeaway items should be removed. An excessive amount of marine refuse comes from takeaway packaging—including PSBs.[1] Furthermore, food packaging is not recognised as a likely transmission pathway for viral respiratory diseases.[2][3],COVID-19 should be an opportunity to re-examine unsustainable practices and the conditions enabling them, not sidestep the issue.

2.Financial incentives should be provided in the GPRS to drive waste reduction efforts. Unlike other bottle bills around the world, the proposed GPRS does not have a rebate setup. This only accomplishes the result of passing the financial burden of the levy onto consumers without giving them an incentive to recycle.

3.Levy should not be flat across the board. Liquors and wines have a higher price point than non-alcoholic drinks and thus are better able to bear a higher levy. In addition to basing on litre-volume, the government should also consider base the levy amount on the value of the beverage to strengthen the incentive to recycle.

4.Both schemes should to be regularly reviewed. The $0.50 levy on PSB has not changed since 2009. The number of PSBs disposed has since rebounded after the first year of full implementation, showing that the levy has lost its original effectiveness.[4]Review mechanisms need to be in place to ensure both the PSB Charging Scheme and the GPRS drive continued sustainable behaviours.

5.Data should be more transparent. The lack of transparency in the effectiveness of the PSB Charging Scheme made it difficult to evaluate scheme effectiveness. More transparency on the data—such as collection and recycling rates—will lead to greater accountability.

6.PSBs and glass beverage containers only make up for a portion of the waste being disposed. Producer responsibility needs to be extended to other sources of packaging waste and waste items as well—whether it is in the form of a rebate system, mandatory take back, or a ban where recycling is not feasible.


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