In Spite Of Reduce And Reuse, Hong Kong's Plastic Passion Barely Dented
Hong Kong's 7 million citizens use about 3 bags each each day. Photo tboothhk @ flickr
In Hong Kong, long known as a shopper's paradise, everything you buy is swathed in plastic - plastic wrap covers each cucumber, and if you buy the cucumber you'll probably get offered another plastic bag to put it in. Plastic is so ubiquitous to daily life here that it's no surprise that 23 million bags get thrown away each day - 8.3 billion for the government to dispose of annually. Last year Hong Kong placed a levy on bags, and it is estimated that by this summer 1 billion fewer bags will be passed out, slightly slowing the filling of Hong Kong's dumps, which are estimated to reach capacity well within a decade.
There is a noticeable difference in the streets compared to a year or two ago - many more citizens are carrying cloth or at the very least some sort of reusable-looking bag, and at the upscale City Super grocery, customers are offered a panoply of chic reusable bags to purchase. However, shop keepers still seem uniformly surprised when you say, "No bag" at purchase, and Hong Kong lags behind its neighbor Taiwan, which has cut plastic bag use around 80 percent since 2002. Hong Kong's China parent is banning giving out free plastic bags starting next week. Ultra-thin plastic bags (less than .0025 millimeters) will be banned outright from that date - the country is hoping to save about 37 million barrels of oil from the ban.