The Legislative Assembly (AL) on Thursday passed a government-initiated bill on the implementation of a plastic carrier bag charge scheme for retail businesses in Macau.
The bill will become law 90 days after its promulgation in the Official Gazette (BO).
According to the law, the amount to be charged for each plastic carrier bag is to be determined by the chief executive in an executive order in due course.
The government has proposed that one pataca should be charged per bag.
The bill’s outline was passed during a plenary session of the legislature in April. The legislature’s 3rd Standing Committee held four meetings to review the bill.
Secretary for Transport and Public Works Raimundo do Rosário and Environmental Protection Bureau (DSPA) Director Raymond Tam Vai Man attended Thursday’s plenary session when the bill was voted on article-by-article in its final reading.
Rosário told lawmakers that the law was “just the first step” in the fight against plastic. Rosário acknowledged that Macau was behind other regions in the fight against plastic, adding he expected the next government to do more to battle the plastic menace.
The next government will be sworn in on December 20.
In Hong Kong, shoppers have been charged for plastic carrier bags since 2009.
Tam said his bureau had about 50 inspectors who would also monitor the implementation of the plastic carrier bag charge scheme. He said his bureau would consider hiring more inspectors because of the plastic carrier charge scheme.
According to the new law, shops providing customers with free plastic carrier bags will be fined 1,000 patacas for each bag they provide.
The first draft of the bill proposed that business owners would have to display promotional materials – such as posters – about the plastic carrier bag charge scheme in clearly visible locations in their retail premises, and that those failing to display the promotional materials would face a fine of 600 patacas each time. However, following the bill’s review by the standing committee, the government revised the draft bill. Under the final version of the bill, shop owners will only need to display such promotional materials during the first two years after the law takes effect. The government has also removed the 600-pataca fine on those failing to display such promotional materials – now they will not face any fine.
Businesses face a charge of 10,000 patacas if they fail to cooperate with plastic carrier bag inspectors.
According to the law, the plastic carrier bag charge scheme will cover all retail outlets, “particularly including” supermarkets, restaurants, eateries, outlets selling drinks, bakeries, pharmacies, convenience stores, and shops selling cigarettes.
According to the law, exemptions can be made for plastic carrier bags used for unpackaged food or medicinal products.
In addition to unpackaged food or medicinal products, the first draft of the bill proposed that exemptions could also be made for plastic carrier bags used 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. However, the government removed these two kinds of exemptions from the final version of the bill.
According to the Macau Post Daily, the bill was unanimously passed by the legislator. Several lawmakers urged the government to strengthen its fight against plastic.
Lawmaker Agnes Lam Iok Fong underlined the problem of plastic pollution in Macau’s coastal waters.