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

Plastic bag tax is not the way to fight pollution

I absolutely agree with Kevin McBarron ('Drastic changes needed to save environment', August 6), in his response to Martin Brinkley's letter ('Anti-plastic bag levy lobby must learn to live in the 21st century', July 29), that a plastic bag ban is a placebo designed to fool people and convince them they are making a difference.

Mr Brinkley seems to have difficulty focusing only on the subject of the debate - supermarket plastic shopping bags. By emphatically defending the qualities of plastic bin-liners, he fails to understand why these are environmentally more harmful than the supermarket shopping bags.

Mr Brinkley suggested critics have implied that 'all plastic bags are reused and ultimately serve as bin bags'; this is a distortion of what has been said. Various correspondents have always quoted the fact that 93 per cent of the respondents in the Environmental Protection Department's (EPD) own survey reuse 'supermarket plastic shopping bags' as rubbish bags, without using additional purpose-made plastic bin-liners. The same EPD survey also reveals supermarket plastic shopping bags only accounted for 20.3 per cent of all the bags disposed of in our landfills. It is known that plastic bags disposed of in landfills occupy less than 0.5 per cent of the total waste volume so they cannot be blamed for our landfill problems.

So, the more one reads the EPD's public consultation report, the more one feels it has indeed no reasonable justifications for its so-called 'environmental levy'.

This risible law on supermarket plastic shopping bags was blindly passed, even though such bags are positively contributing to the general environment.

The majority of Hong Kong citizens have been using and reusing them.

If supermarket plastic shopping bags were such environmental evils, why didn't the government target those single-use plastic bin-liners also? Would environmental minister Edward Yau Tang-wah care to explain this?

Alex F. T. Chu, Clear Water Bay

Special seats are on trains

Michael Fok called for the provision of designated seats on Light Rail vehicles for passengers with special needs ('Courtesy seats for carriages', July 14).

We agree that a little courtesy like giving up seats to passengers in need can create a comfortable and harmonious travelling environment for all and help to reinforce Hong Kong's image as a world-class city.

Currently, three seats in each Light Rail vehicle are designated for passengers with special needs and they are marked by labels affixed next to the seats with the message 'Please give this seat to anyone in need.'

In the planned modernisation programme for first generation Light Rail vehicles, the designated seats and accompanying labels will be included.

In addition, the message 'Please offer your seat to passengers in need', is also displayed on the passenger information unit in Light Rail vehicles to remind passengers to be considerate. Moreover, the MTR Corporation holds a number of activities each year to promote courteous behaviour in the MTR.

This includes the Loving Heart Seat campaign which involves the posting of permanent displays on trains to encourage passengers to offer their seats to those in need.

We plan to implement this programme to the extended MTR network including the Light Rail system later this year.

Nevertheless, the success of our courtesy campaigns also relies on co-operation from passengers and I wish to thank Mr Fok for allowing me the opportunity to again urge members of the travelling public to show their care and concern for fellow passengers in need by offering their seats to those who need them most.

James Tsui, media relations manager, MTR Corporation

Levy rule unfair and confusing

I refer to the letter by Jill Fung ('New levy rules are so unfair', August 5), in which she said that the 10,000 employers who paid the levy in a lump sum for two years are being penalised.

As I understand it, even those who paid in six-monthly instalments will have to pay for the duration of the contract, unless they waste their money and time (and that of the Immigration Department), and terminate the existing contract and make a new contract with their maid. If they fail to do so, then they also will have to pay all the instalments.

There must be thousands of employers who are confused and who are calling the Immigration Department, a lengthy process, because officers are so busy that trying to get through can be very time-consuming.

Gary Ahuja, Tsim Sha Tsui

Misconceptions over Obama

Guy K. H. Lam ('Vote for Obama good for peace', August 4) tells us that a vote for the black man with a 'Muslim background' as US president will be good for peace and will result in a foreign policy which will be more moderate towards Osama bin Laden and his holy warriors.

There are some major misconceptions here. Senator Barack Obama is as white as he is black. He was raised by his white mother and later by his white grandparents. His father might have been a Muslim but abandoned him at a young age. Osama Bin Laden and his holy warriors are not the average peace-loving Muslims but terrorists who kill and maim innocent people from all kinds of races and religions. They deserve no place in our society.

I do agree that the world will be better off with the US playing a lesser role in international affairs and if China can clean up its act (on issues such as Darfur) it might be able to step in and fill part of that role, but not yet.

Jeffry Kuperus, Clear Water Bay

Tribute to Jake

I don't know what I will do without my morning dose of sanity and sarcasm from Jake van der Kamp.

Being an old movie buff when I read his final Monitor column ('After 2,600 columns, it's time to say goodbye', August 6), I was reminded of the scene in Gone With the Wind when Scarlett O'Hara is fleeing the siege of Atlanta and Clark Gable's Rhett Butler tells her not to fear the ragtag members of the Confederate Army because with them goes the last remnants of order (and without them comes anarchy). I feel a similar level of foreboding.

Who now will challenge, with refreshing logic and humour, the extraordinary porkies that our administration so often inflict upon us? Who will stop the wool from being pulled over our eyes? I just have to hope that Jake's own confidence is justified and others will indeed rise in his place.

In the meantime, thank you Jake, and good luck. I along with many others will miss you.

Kym Fortescue, Central

Flexible law

I can understand why the government wants to introduce a law banning idling engines.

However opponents have argued that during summer the inside of a vehicle can heat up quickly, which can be dangerous for drivers. I would suggest a flexible law. In summer, drivers would be allowed to have engines idling during the day. But at night and during the cooler months they would have to switch off their engines.

I would also like to see car makers look into the possibility of putting solar panels in cars and use the electricity generated to keep the air con working.

Lui Chiu-yat, Kwun Tong