PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 July, 2009, 12:00am

Plastic bag levy in stores is only the first step

The government's plastic bag levy took effect yesterday. It came into force after more than a decade of public education by green groups including Friends of the Earth (HK) and numerous high-profile government promotions on the problem of overuse of plastic bags in our daily lives.

This was the first piece of legislation under the Product Eco-responsibility Ordinance, an umbrella bill that aims to set out a legislative framework for the administration to keep control over many other products such as electronic equipment, drink containers and packaging waste.

We were disappointed to find that chain stores adopted different methods to get round the bag levy, such as prepacking products using plastic carrier bags.

There continues to be opposition to the levy. Some people claim these plastic bags can be reused as bin liners at home.

However, if we continued taking free bags from supermarkets, we would end up with more bags than we needed. A normal household would only use one bin liner a day. In most residential estates, including the public housing estates, tenants are provided with enough rubbish bags from the property management companies. Under the user-pays principle, we have a responsibility to pay for the bags we use to dispose of our refuse. The so-called free bags in stores were not free. Their cost was already factored into the prices of goods on the shelves.

Under the new law, stores will not be required to pay the levy to the government. They only have to set up a system to collect the levy on behalf of the government.

In other countries where producer responsibility legislation is in place, producers of certain products are required by law to shoulder the responsibility of collecting and recycling their product packaging. They are also required to take back their products when they reach their end of life for proper dismantling and recycling.

Hong Kong lags far behind in terms of producer responsibility legislation. The plastic bag levy is the first product levy regulation launched in Hong Kong and we hope our government will not wait for a decade before adding another product to the legislation. The landfills and our environment can't wait.

We have to show respect for the environment and be good stewards to manage this planet well for future generations.

People need to get into the habit of bringing their own bag.

Edwin Lau Che-feng, director, Friends of the Earth (HK)

Good grounds for cynicism

I can assure Sir David Tang Wing-cheung ('Take up the baton', July 4) that he is not alone in having failed to understand the West Kowloon Cultural District project for around 10 years.

My original understanding was that the pre-1997 administration of governor Chris Patten earmarked much of that reclaimed land for a badly needed urban park. In 1998, then-chief executive Tung Chee-hwa's administration decided it wanted a large performance venue on the site to boost tourism.

Somewhere along the way, this turned into a big cultural complex that would be paid for out of the sale of high-rise luxury residential and commercial property occupying a large portion of the site. The contract would go to one developer and, in 2004, the local family-run property giants lined up to bid for it. It looked suspiciously as if it was mainly intended to benefit tycoons seeking a massive handout of public wealth.

Public opposition (in the wake of Cyberport, the Hunghom Peninsula and other giveaways) led to the scrapping of that plan. Now it seems it will be a large but lower-density cultural complex, paid for directly by the government, aimed at local residents and visitors alike, while no doubt boosting official egos and construction companies' profits.

Sir David's reasons for supporting the project are encouraging, given his reputation for speaking his mind. But, even if we can grasp the concept, it is not hard to understand why people have been cynical about it up to now.

Dominic Quinnell, Central

Dogs will die under new rule

I felt I had to respond to Michael Chugani's Public Eye column ('It's a dog's life in Guangzhou . . . and why not?' July 1).

Does he not realise that this new one-dog policy in Guangzhou will result in many dogs being killed? Surely it would have been better for the authorities to allow people to register the dogs they already own and then agree not to get any more in future.

Officials should be educating people about the proper way to bring up pets rather than killing them.

Chu Man-shan, Causeway Bay

Police were so heavy handed

I refer to the report 'Fired with pride, then fried in the Victoria Park heat' (July 2).

Having attended the test of endurance that last Wednesday's democracy rally became I would agree that the police incited anger and showed poor planning in 'bottlenecking' so many of us down a single lane leaving Victoria Park.

An eight-minute walk from the starting point to Sogo took me 90 minutes.

I felt thoroughly sick standing still in the punishing heat, forcing me to leave early. Trams and traffic should not have been given priority on a public holiday with tens of thousands of people filling the streets.

There is more to this than the police trying to make the crowd look smaller.

There is little doubt that those trapped by overzealous officers this year will think again about attending next time.

It is yet another example of the authorities eroding our freedom of expression and making political expression as arduous as possible.

Tom Grundy, Kowloon Tong

English is an official language

It is a pity that William Yip ('Chinese is the language of HK', July 6) feels no sympathy for Hans Ebert ('Why language requirement is a bad mistake', July 1) and his friend and I guess for me, as none of us can read Chinese even after many years in Hong Kong.

Maybe Mr Yip forgot that English and Chinese are both official languages in Hong Kong. We are all prepared to live here and help this city prosper. Until 12 years ago, Hong Kong was not a Chinese city, but British.

Mr Ebert's friend can therefore read one of the official languages (English).

Similarly, there are many Chinese citizens who speak Chinese but not a word of English, even though they have always lived here.

Klaus-B. Jotz, Tung Chung

Maid levy misery

I appreciate that the subject of the foreign domestic helper levy has been flogged to death in these columns but I am driven to despair that we middle-income, middle-class, white-collar workers are still having to pay this absurd surcharge.

Has our legislature not noticed that governments the world over are paying billions to bail out fat-cat incompetent bankers and carmakers while giving tax breaks and other incentives to the man on the street to help bolster their economies?

Surely the current economic maelstrom offers our own legislature the opportunity to walk away from this ridiculous tax while being able to save face with the electorate.

Michael Foggo, Central