Who will be impacted by Macau’s new plastic bag law?

On August 19, 2019, Law no. 16/2019 (the "Law") was published in the Macau Official Gazette. It restricts the distribution of plastic bags to the general public and on November 18, 2019 enters into force, 90 days after its publication.

October 31,2019

by: João Nogueira Marques and José Rodrigues

This Law aims to reduce the negative impact of plastic bags on the environment and will apply to sales by retailers. The Macau Legislative Assembly passed approval as an acknowledgement of the general public’s plea to reduce plastic bag waste, and as a means for the public to develop a habit of bringing reusable bags. As stated by the Director of the Environmental Protection Services Bureau (the “DSPA”), the city produced 1,400 tons of garbage per day in 2017, 23% of which were plastics. Lawmakers anticipate a 50% decrease in plastic bag consumption, following this Law’s implementation.

To achieve this goal, the Law stipulates a fee for each plastic bag supplied to a customer, though exemptions have been provided, such as free plastic bags to carry unpackaged food. The Chief Executive’s Dispatch no. 143/2019, published on 9 September 2019, requires MOP1.00 (one Pataca) to be charged for each plastic bag that is supplied.

During the first two years of enforcement, the Law also requires retailers to display signage stating each plastic bag is subject to a fee.

This Law gives DSPA reinforced powers to supervise the Law’s enforcement and retailers’ compliance. In this regard, it should be noted that the DSPA has the right to require the cooperation of retail establishments whenever performing their supervising activity. Violators will be charged hefty fines, including a fee of MOP1,000.00 (one thousand Patacas) per plastic bag supplied without the required fee.

To address the scope of the Law, the following definitions apply:

  • retail sales act – the act of providing a product for consumption by the purchaser upon payment of a price;
  • retail establishment – a place where retail sales are carried out, including but not limited to pharmacies, convenience stores and tobacco stalls;
  • plastic bag – a wholly or partly plastic wrapping with an opening, to carry one or more products.

With most Macau retailers supplying plastic bags to consumers, every legal or natural person operating a retail business must be aware of this Law’s impact, since violators will pay hefty fines.

Questions to consider regarding the upcoming enforcement of this Law:

  • Does your business supply plastic bags to consumers?
  • Does your business act as a retailer?
  • Does your business qualify for an exemption from charging the fee?
  • When can your business provide plastic bags without charging the fee?
João Nogueira Marques
José J. Rodrigues
Trainee Lawyer
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