Creating less waste is the only way to reduce bags in landfills

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 March, 2008, 12:00am

In response to my letter ('People are reusing plastic bags in a responsible manner', March 5), Environmental Protection Department assistant director Alfred Lee has rightly pointed out 'that sustainable waste management is not about tackling a single issue' ('Effective waste management starts with reduction at source', March 18).

A case in point is the plastic shopping bag levy, to be applied to some supermarkets and chain stores, even though 93 per cent of the respondents were found to have reused the bags as rubbish bags, general carriers, packaging materials and shopping bags - as described in the department's own survey.

Household refuse is disposed of inside plastic rubbish bags or bin-liners for hygiene and keeping the environment clean during transit. Unless a more environmentally-friendly bin-liner substitute can be found, I agree with Alex Tam that, 'it is foolhardy for the department to pretend it can cut the total volume of plastic bags in landfills by substituting supermarket bags with plastic bin-liners' ('Plastic bag levy will do nothing to ease pressure on our landfills', September 8, 2007).

Although Mr Lee said 'nearly 90 per cent of the public agree that there is much room to reduce the use of plastic shopping bags in their daily life and two-thirds of the public support or strongly support the introduction of an environmental levy to address the problem of indiscriminate use', he missed the point.

First, how can one aim to achieve a reduction on the use of plastic bags when one doesn't consider a reduction in waste? But, if one can reduce waste, the reduction in plastic bags follows. Also, if the bag levy is intended to address 'indiscriminate use', the department should first define and describe what that is. When I pointed out that the per capita disposal figure in Hong Kong is 'astonishingly high', I was questioning whether the department had reviewed all the contributing factors or assumptions that could affect the reliability of its finding.

We all agree that waste avoidance and reduction at source offer the best solutions to our waste problem. A 'waste-not, want-not' principle is therefore a good starting point.

Alex F. T. Chu, Clear Water Bay