Plastic-bag sting costs A-1 Bakery $5000

A-1 Bakery has been fined after its store at Hong Kong International Airport was repeatedly caught providing plastic shopping bags to customers illegally, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) reports.

A Hong Kong court this week ordered the bakery chain to pay HK$5000 (US$640) for contravening the Product Eco-responsibility Ordinance (PERO).

It was the first case in which criminal proceedings were initiated against a large retail chain since the plastic shopping bag charging scheme came into effect in April 2015, says a government spokesman.

During an inspection at the chain’s airport store in March last year, it was observed failing to comply with the legal requirement to charge a customer for a plastic bag provided for a bottle of water. A fixed-penalty notice was issued and the store was fined $2000.

In another surprise check at the store in March this year, EPD officers again found it illegally providing a free plastic shopping bag to a customer. This led to the prosecution.

Three other outlets of the bakery had previously been found to have violated the law with the EPD issuing fixed-penalty notices in each case.

Under the PERO, sellers have to charge customers not less than 50 cents for each plastic shopping bag provided for goods.

For the four months to the end of July, EPD officers held more than 88,000 retail inspections, issuing 406 fixed-penalty notices. Fifteen cases involved prosecution proceedings.

Meanwhile, a Hong Kong green group is urging officials to crack down on miscreant retailers, reports the South China Morning Post.

Staff members of Greeners Action went undercover as shoppers in eight areas of the city, visiting a range of shops. Of the 100 shops and street vendors visited, 35 did not charge customers for plastic bags.

Greeners Action assistant project manager Leo Wong Ka-chi says they believe violators are aware of the law, “but their attitude and disregard prove they do not care”.

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