Poor need not suffer from tax on plastic bags in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 January, 2008, 12:00am

Your correspondent Elsa Young ('Bags levy will hurt the poor', January 5) seems to erroneously conflate being poor with being stupid.

She claims that the long-overdue planned introduction of a 50 cents charge for a plastic bag will leave them destitute, describing it as 'highway robbery'.

Well, poor though many of Hong Kong's citizens may unfortunately be - but that does not mean they are stupid.

They are well able to bring along a bag of their own, to avoid this token charge.

On any day of the week you can see poor scavengers recycling tin cans and cardboard boxes on this city's streets.

This makes some of our poorest citizens much more environmentally aware than some of your letter writers.

Nor are they, as is claimed, likely to be so foolish as to mix up raw meat with other foodstuffs, thus risking contamination.

They are bright enough to bring along several old bags, if they find the 50 cents charge for each bag objectionable. Indeed, it is exactly as an incentive to shoppers to bring along their own bags, that is the very reason to introduce these minimal charges in the first place.

Nobody wants to make the lot of our poorest citizens any more demanding than it is already.

However, such patronising opinions as expressed in her letter will do little to aid their plight.

And by the way, even in our poorest areas you will find that cigarettes sell well.

Each packet of cigarettes costs at least the equivalent of 45 plastic bags.

Nor are the Jockey Club betting centres in Hong Kong unfrequented by the poor.

In the end, if Hong Kong's limited number of landfills are filled to overflowing (partly by the millions of plastic bags discarded each day), then all our citizens - rich and poor alike - will suffer.

If she wants to help the poor, then your correspondent's energies and concern would be more effectively directed towards pressing for the introduction of a minimum wage in Hong Kong.

Paul Surtees, Mid-Levels