PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 January, 2009, 12:00am

Reasons for plastic bag tax are obvious

I refer to the letter by Alex Chu on the plastic bag tax ('Retailers' group right to oppose ill-conceived plastic bag levy', December 25).

He says the affected retailers dispense with a mere 770 million bags per year, which sounds like a lot of bags to me. However the true figure could be a lot higher as this figure comes from an interested party, the Retail Management Association.

Mr Chu and others have previously questioned figures given by the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), but what proof has been provided to back up the association's statement?

Once again Mr Chu states that 'plastic shopping bags are finally used by most people as rubbish bags'. This is not the conclusion reached by many citizens who can see daily examples of mass dumping of such bags. Check out any street-side rubbish bin for starters.

Currently socially conscious shoppers using their own bags are forced to underwrite the cost of the bags doled out so liberally.

At Watsons, heavy and expensive bags with plastic handles appear to be de rigueur.

In these hard economic times, when every dollar counts, we must be spared of this overhead which is included in the calculation of retail prices.

In order to reduce the number of bags wasted and to provide a level playing field a transparent user-pay principle is essential. The Retail Management Association has shown no incentive in getting its members to pass on the true cost of the bags they are taking nor has it facilitated any voluntary system.

We all remember the undue haste with which ParknShop backtracked on its 20 cent bag charge in 2007 even though the criticism levied was focused not on the green measure but on the lack of transparency as to what the revenue would be used for.

It has therefore been left to the government to take the necessary steps. Its choice is to impose a 50 cent charge per bag. In the absence of any other concrete proposal and in view of the necessity to introduce the measure as soon as possible then, as they say, the show must go on.

Martin Brinkley, Ma Wan

HK will benefit from visa rule

The decision to liberalise Hong Kong visa requirements for Shenzhen residents who do not yet possess a Shenzhen residency permit is a sensible, progressive move.

The vast majority of Shenzhen residents do not yet hold Shenzhen residency, as a result of a very conservative bureaucracy that is reluctant to give city [residency permits] to people born in the countryside.

Many of these are well- educated professionals, the cream of China's rural society, who have worked hard to achieve success in a new city far from home.

The restrictions upon their entry to Hong Kong in the past have meant that visiting suppliers or customers in the SAR was difficult, to the detriment of Hong Kong's trade in goods and services. While perceived risks of increased entry of prostitutes may be intimidating for Jacquelyn Yu ('New visa rule has side effect', December 31), a basic principle of fairness should be that law-abiding visitors should not be penalised for the misdeeds of a few.

Simon Appleby, Sai Kung

Light bulbs pose health risks

I refer to the letter by Michael R. K. Mudd ('We must opt for energy saving light bulbs', December 27). I would like to raise a number of points about these energy saving light bulbs that was not mentioned.

Though they consume less electricity, they pose health and environmental risks.

Fluorescent bulbs contain neurotoxic mercury vapour and if broken indoors they contaminate the air and require special clean-up procedures (no vacuuming, for example). When disposed of in ordinary trash, they are eventually broken and add to our city's already severe mercury pollution.

For years traditional fluorescent bulbs have been widely used in offices but now compact fluorescent light bulbs are making their way into homes where they pose big risks especially to children. And promoting the increasing use of these bulbs without proper and efficient disposal systems will just increase the amount of this cumulative highly toxic poison in our city.

The manufacturers are not mentioning these dangers. And the government has made no special effort to educate people on the careful handling of these bulbs nor organised collection of this hazardous waste, just as it has not adequately addressed the disposal of batteries, computer waste and dental amalgam, all of which are toxic and contaminate our air, water, and food supply.

P. Tung, Repulse Bay

Schools need drastic measure

I refer to the letter by Adam Liu ('Drug tests not the solution', December 29).

I am a Form Six student and I have never doubted the importance of teenagers' privacy and other rights.

However, I do feel that the proposed compulsory drugs tests in schools may be the best solution.

Since I was a primary school student I have listened to innumerable talks and have been asked to join activities highlighting the dangers of taking drugs, but still some young people get involved with drugs.

It is the same with smoking.

We attended many talks on the dangers of tobacco, but some of my classmates have been smoking for two or three years.

What schools, the government and other organisations can do to combat this problem, is limited.

Most of my classmates who smoke are influenced by their families especially their parents.

Perhaps drug tests are too stringent and controversial, but this is the most effective way to deal with a worsening situation.

Ricky Wu Wing-kei, Sha Tin

Rote learning not the answer

I am writing about the Caritas Medical Centre's handling of a patient who collapsed and died on its doorstep.

What this tragedy showed was a tendency by people in this city to stick to rigid rules. Hong Kong is a place in which so many rules exist to regulate our behaviour.

While we need regulations, they should never be so draconian that they stop people using their discretion.

There are no rules that can cover all eventualities.

People must learn that sometimes they will have to make a decision using their common sense and general knowledge. This tragedy showed flaws in Hong Kong's learning environment.

Our students are educated through rote learning which smothers logical thinking and critical evaluation.

Why don't hospitals have some kind of workshops which help staff to be better prepared and use their own initiative in unforeseen situations?

Kenneth Wong, Mid-Levels

Rules dominate

We should learn from the incident at Caritas Medical Centre where a man collapsed and later died. It is about exercising good judgment and using your common sense.

It seems that in every government department, company, school and other organisations, there is a whole set of guidelines that staff must refer to when there is a crisis. This is not always a bad thing, but we should not become dependent on these guidelines.

Fiona Wong Hei-man, Tseung Kwan O