PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 January, 2008, 12:00am

Surveys on plastic bag tax inadequate

The Executive Council has approved, in principle, a 50-cent levy on plastic bags ('50 cents bag tax approved', December 19).

Its deliberation is probably based on recommendations in the public consultation report, compiled by the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) in August, titled 'Proposal on an Environmental Levy on Plastic Shopping Bags.'

In the report, under 'objective of the proposal', it said: 'The problem lies in the fact that we have been disposing of more than three plastic shopping bags per person per day. The core objective of our proposal is to reduce the indiscriminate use of plastic shopping bags affirmatively and effectively.'

It was also said, at separate Legco meetings in May and July, that the majority of political parties had spoken in support of the environmental levy and considered it to be in line with the principle of 'polluter pays' - given the seriousness of the plastic shopping bag abuse.

Furthermore, results of two EPD public opinion surveys by telephone, in June and July, concluded that 84 and 66 per cent - from a total of 1,102 respondents - supported the proposed levy.

However, before pushing its proposed levy further through our legislation machinery, the EPD should at least clarify the following issues.

First, the department should justify how the figure of three plastic shopping bags per person per day - worse than anywhere else - was obtained, as this is vital to quantifying the extent of the problem.

If the quoted figure was not based on actual tallies obtained from landfill sites, we may have been looking at a different problem.

Second, when the EPD made the allegation of 'indiscriminate use of plastic bags' in its report, was its comment based on proper surveys of bag-users' habits or sheer conjecture?

Third, the way that the EPD applied the principle of 'polluter pays' on plastic shopping bags seems curious. Under its principle, when people reuse plastic shopping bags for waste disposal - in order to protect the environment during transit from bins to landfill sites - they would have to pay a bag levy. However, waste disposed of in a heavy-gauge plastic bin liner would be levy free.

As only a small sample size of 1,102 people - from a population of almost 7 million - was interviewed in the EPD's opinion surveys, such results cannot reliably reflect general public opinion.

This small sample would not adequately cover the spectrum of bag users, be they rich or poor, who will be affected by the proposed levy.

Alex Tam, Sai Kung

Energy codes are essential

I welcome the news that the government is proposing to make energy efficiency codes a mandatory requirement for buildings.

Buildings are the main energy consumer and, if appropriate measures are adopted, it will help to reduce energy consumption, carbon dioxide emissions and lessen pollution.

Some of the energy efficiency codes currently available are only adopted by developers in an ad hoc manner.

Indeed, there are few incentives for them to do so. Following the energy codes means extra expenses, which will have to be recouped from the tenants.

In a nutshell, this equates to higher rents and lower competitiveness in the marketplace.

If the codes are made mandatory, all developers will be on an equal footing and market competitiveness will be similar.

Not only should we make the codes mandatory, we should also have an ambitious plan that adopts the most stringent energy codes possible, to ensure that energy consumption really can be reduced significantly. This will be of long-term benefit to society.

Furthermore, the Environment Bureau must step up its efforts to promote green buildings, a green lifestyle and a corporate green plan.

The public needs to be educated more on the definition of 'green' and the various available measures to achieve environmental results.

The bureau has not done enough so far in all these aspects.

H. C. Bee, Ho Man Tin

Revamp better than rebuild

The Housing Authority has said the cost of refurbishing old public estates is lower than rebuilding them. I find the Urban Renewal Authority's (URA) views regarding the 'high cost' of preserving 'Wedding Card Street' tenement buildings particularly distasteful.

The URA should come straight out and admit that it wants the tenements demolished so it can sell the land to private developers at a higher price.

Mark Chan, Tai Po

Teach children the right values

People keep talking about sex education. How about education on love, respect, morality and resisting temptation?

Simple 'sex-protection education' will surely fail. From an early age, youngsters should be taught the meaning of love, respect and morals, and how to resist temptation.

Will students get a good mark at school if they know these values?

Where is the reward and where are the incentives? Do we, as a society, treasure and promote these values?

These are questions that we ought to be asking.

Wendy Wong, Quarry Bay

Call for calm

in Pakistan

I would like, through these columns, to express my solidarity with our friends from Pakistan, who live here and elsewhere.

The Humanist Movement in Hong Kong sends our best wishes of support in this dangerous time when the nation is threatened by forces that seek to see the disintegration of the country and which care little for the ordinary people of Pakistan, who simply want to live a decent life.

It ought to be emphasised to the friends of Pakistan that expressions of violence must be avoided.

Violence can never be justified, other than in self-defence.

The moment [following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto] will pass. The people of Pakistan must hold themselves together, for the time when heads and hearts have cooled.

Be with your families and talk to your young friends who might be hot-headed and who might identify with the hysteria in the country.

The Humanist Association has its manifesto.

It has friends in every country and embraces the core values of active non-violence and co-operation. We have that all-important open welcome to all faiths and we have positive beliefs.

We are always looking to the future.

I urge people in Pakistan to be strong and to comfort those who are around you over the next few days.

Tony Henderson, chairman, Humanist Association of Hong Kong

A special person

Kevin Sinclair was special.

No doubt many more-important people will pay tribute to him but I cannot let his passing go without saying that he was a person who inspired us all and bravely lived a full life when many of us would have given up.

I consider it a great privilege to have been a friend and will remember him with great admiration.

Jim Bruce, Portsmouth