PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 February, 2008, 12:00am

EPD calculation for plastic bags doesn't tally

A number of your correspondents have quite rightly questioned the methodology and conclusions reached by the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) in establishing that more than 23 million plastic bags are dumped into landfills every day.

Clearly this figure is disputable, and even if it can be requantified it would show that only a fraction of these bags come from supermarkets.

For example, I know my family (of three) does 95 per cent of our shopping at a supermarket and the average for our household is eight to 10 bags a week, or one bag per day, divided by three.

So where the dickens are all the other bags in the survey coming from? It's simply not credible.

According to previous South China Morning Post reports, the Plastic Bag Manufacturers' Association challenged the figure of 33 million per day saying the figure could have been inflated by at least six times.

Also, the EPD has estimated that 12 million plastic shopping bags a day are distributed (in a letter addressed to me in March 2006 ).

There is a big gap between these two figures.

I believe that the proposed tax on bags is not going to make a shred of difference to our landfills for three reasons:

As these will avoid the bag-tax, trash will be packed into plastic bin liners instead of supermarket plastic bags, which are much worse for the environment;

The proposed tax is not spread wide enough and will not reach many of the biggest users of plastic, such as wet markets, small retailers and hawkers; and

There are too many exemptions - small plastic bags used to carry fruit, vegetables, fish, or newspapers, and bags used by hotels, duty free shops and hospitals, to name just a few.

Even the post office will have an exemption for the millions of 'postage paid' bulk economy plastic bags used under its permit system, for mailers and others.

In short, the EPD needs to justify its original statistics in a more convincing manner, particularly when the proposal goes before the Legislative Council.

Furthermore, this proposed tax should be scrapped and replaced by much more credible and comprehensive recycling programmes involving incinerators and compulsory separation of garbage at source.

J. R. Paine, Chai Wan

The shame of hotel demolition

I write in regard to the impending demolition of The Ritz-Carlton hotel in Central.

What a shame this is happening, since the hotel is only 14 years old and still in perfect condition, inside and out. Its exterior architecture is unique and stands out from many of the other buildings in Central.

It's a shame because a perfectly usable building is being destroyed so that its owners, Lai Sun Development, can make a few more dollars.

It's a shame because the cost of removing the debris in Hong Kong is so much lower than in other developed economies, and that the labour costs of hiring construction workers is also so much lower than those of other developed parts of the world.

This, indeed, makes it profitable to tear down the hotel in order to make a few more dollars. Of course, the social costs of tearing down this building haven't been considered - the noise pollution, the increased amount of debris going to our landfills, the increased traffic into this area of Central.

But why should the owners care? This doesn't affect their balance sheet.

I heard the chief executive of PepsiCo say during the World Economic Forum in Davos that corporations aren't soulless, and that they are run by caring people like you and me.

If she witnessed this impending demolition, which can only be characterised as waste, I doubt that she would still stand so adamantly by those words.

Milton Kiang, Mid-Levels

Wedding Street no cultural icon

While I am no fan of the Urban Renewal Authority, I fail to see any 'intrinsic cultural value' in places like Lee Tung Street ('Wedding Card Street') and 'Sneaker Street' and how any of the buildings there can be regarded as 'historic buildings' by any objective standard, as claimed in Mark Chan's letter ('No winners', January 31).

I am all for the preservation of our cultural heritage, and it is a good sign that the people of Hong Kong are awakening to the need to cherish the roots of indigenous culture.

However, a line must be drawn somewhere so that the pro-preservation stance of people like Mr Chan would have more credibility and be shared by a wider community, instead of being dismissed as mere obstructive activism.

Woodrow Lo, Aberdeen

A good whine about wine

Suddenly it's open season on wine duty - not the current duty of 40 per cent, but the prospect of further cuts to that duty.

Annelise Connell ('Why we need high wine tax', Letters, January 31) likens wine to nicotine and ketamine - 'just another drug'. Those in favour of a duty cut are accused of 'glorifying' wine. Hmmm. Michael Chugani ('Beware, the wine profiteers are at it again', Public Eye, January 30) performs the feat of explaining how a zero tax on wine can only benefit the rich - even George W. Bush could see through that one.

Now we have the beer coalition ('Don't cut duty on alcohol this year, says beer coalition', February 1), after having to explain to Legco last year why they failed to pass on the promised savings to beer drinkers, advising the government against any further tax cut this year - on wine.

You would think that this blatant bid to protect market share would be ignored by the government - but who knows?

Anyone looking forward to enjoying affordable wine in Hong Kong's restaurants must hope that the broader economic arguments in your own editorial prevail ('Axing wine tax would be something to cheer', January 24). Hong Kong needs to win back its reputation as a free port, and as one of the more affordable culinary capitals of the world.

None of the criticisms cited above engages with the main argument for cutting the duty: that the Hong Kong economy needs to energise its tourism and catering sectors, especially given the long recession we are emerging from, and the very strong competition from Macau in tourism and entertainment.

Nigel Bruce, Pok Fu Lam

Racetrack is no place for kids

The Betting and Lotteries Commission wants to discuss whether children should be allowed into racecourses ('Review over children at racecourses', January 26).

Children should not be allowed to enter racecourses, and the definition of 'children' should be anyone under the age of 18.

Children should be guided carefully towards developing a correct view of society and the world. It is more important that they pay attention to appreciate how society functions.

It is not that they should be sheltered from the inevitable reality of the adult world of gambling. It's simply that exposing them to the desire and greed of gambling too early in life will not do them any good.

Gambling is not a sin, but it should be reserved for people with the ability to appreciate its impact and consequences. Children are not mature enough for that. Allowing children into racecourses is plainly incorrect.

H. C. Bee, Ho Man Tin


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