PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 December, 2011, 12:00am


Unfair rap against food sales staff

I refer to the letter by Nigel Pearson ('Bakeries wasting plastic bags', November 27).

Food that is not pre-packaged is exempt from the plastic bag levy for food safety and hygiene reasons. Shops selling food items without packaging are obliged to use bags for them.

I do not see this as one of the 'loopholes that allow this laziness and disregard' for the environment 'to thrive', as Mr Pearson suggests, but instead as a legitimate and valid way to keep food items separate and avoid contamination.

It is commendable that your correspondent wishes to reduce the number of discarded plastic bags, but he could approach it in a better way.

It is not very reasonable to expect that staff working in a busy, low-wage job in Hong Kong should be able to understand colloquial English to a high level, even a seemingly simple phrase such as 'One bag will do'.

If the staff cannot understand the phrase once, repeating it will probably not be effective, but saying it with clearer, less ambiguous phrasing, such as 'I only want one bag', might make it more understandable.

I also think calling the staff robotic or mindless for following policy is disrespectful.

Many food outlets provide chopsticks or plastic utensils not in a 'mistaken way of giving service' but probably because the majority of customers do not use their own utensils to eat take-away meals on the go.

It would surely be better for the environment if more customers did use their own utensils. The reality, though, is that food outlet owners will carry on providing them unless customers expressly request not to be given them.

A better way for expatriates to avoid the problems of excessive plastic bags, take-away utensils and wooden chopsticks would be to learn simple Cantonese and choose to decline them.

Say the Cantonese equivalent of 'One bag for everything' or 'no need for chopsticks or spoon'.

I have been in Hong Kong for two years, and although my Cantonese level is still fairly low, people are very appreciative when I say even the simplest things.

Andrew Seekings, Ma On Shan

50 HK cents not enough to curb use

The plastic bag levy is designed to encourage Hongkongers to use fewer plastic bags.

However, the surcharge for each bag is only 50 cents, and this is a small sum for most people. Therefore I do not think it has the desired deterrent effect.

Many people probably still do not bring their own bag when they go shopping and willingly pay 50 cents to purchase one.

In effect, for many Hongkongers, the surcharge is meaningless. Some housewives do bring along their own recycled shopping bag, but that is because they have always done so.

To solve the problem of overuse and possible abuse, the government should increase the plastic bag levy. This would discourage people from frequently buying additional bags when they go to retail outlets.

This problem should be addressed by the government before it considers possible plastic bag abuse by bakeries.

Kelvin Ng, Sha Tin

Plastic bag levy should be universal

I agree with the government's proposal to extend the plastic bag levy to cover all 60,000 retailers in Hong Kong ('Same bag levy for all, says government', November 29).

This could help us to reduce non-recyclable rubbish.

Surveys have shown that since the levy was introduced, plastic bag usage has gone down.

Having a charge for bags at a retail outlet can stop people from wasting them and it can help to develop positive long-term habits.

This policy can make Hong Kong become a greener city.

Some people fear that exemptions for bakeries would open a loophole and be open to abuse, but I am sure that the government could deal with any problems.

Coco Tsang Tsz-yan, Sha Tin

More births could strain resources

Henan's one-child policy has finally been [partially] relaxed to ease problems caused by a law that was introduced more than 30 years ago.

The change has been welcomed, as this policy created problems such as an ageing population and spoiled children.

However, the relaxation of the rule will not necessarily make people's lives better.

A higher birth rate should lead to a larger labour force. But it simultaneously generates a much greater, if not unbearable, demand for resources.

Pollution levels will rise, and an increased population will put a greater strain on supplies of electricity, food and other daily necessities. China cannot afford to exacerbate its already serious environmental problems.

It may be an economic superpower, but most of its citizens are still on relatively low incomes. Therefore a rise in population may not have positive consequences. The government must act to narrow the income gap between rich and poor, or it will find that the relaxation of the one-child policy will backfire.

Yiu Wun-hang, Sha Tin

Proof of address is essential

It is now time to plug the loopholes in the voter registration system.

If people do not have to provide proof of address, then there is always the risk of a fake address being submitted.

It has been argued that tightening the rules will make it more difficult for some people to register, especially if the process becomes too complicated and time-consuming.

The government must strike a balance between convenience and a fair voting system.

I think the simple solution would be to have registration officials arrange home visits in various districts. And residents must be asked to inform the relevant department when they change their address.

Nicholas Ho, Sha Tin

Video would cut cheating in soccer

Fifa president Sepp Blatter talks grandly about discipline, respect, fair play, unity, solidarity, democracy, trust and confidence in soccer ('Fiery Blatter comes out fighting at AFC event', November 25 ).

However, he has shown an astonishing facility to gloss over serious issues within the 'football family'.

During the year, there have been accusations of greed, corruption, opaque action, nepotism, racism and geriatric power-hogging at the sport's highest level - on Fifa's executive committee.

Dishonesty at the top filters to the bottom, so that on the field of play there is a growing culture of cheating, and our children copy the superstars.

Everyone can see the truth on television, but Fifa archaically rejects the use of technology for matches.

In these circumstances it is difficult to maintain respect for our much-loved game.

At the higher professional levels, it should be mandatory for the four match officials to extensively review video of the action.

Slow-motion and freeze-frame replays can easily expose examples of diving, over-the-top tackles, shirt-pulling and play-acting.

The shenanigans would soon stop if such blatant cheating stood a strong chance of exposure and punishment.

Under the motto of 'For the game, for the world', Fifa has eyed international politics and money-making at the expense of the interests of referees, players, fans and clubs.

I hope (probably in vain) that Fifa executives watched the recent Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand, as the sporting standards were much higher than those seen at the Fifa World Cup 2010 in South Africa.

Fifa is out of touch and could learn a lot from the International Rugby Board.

Roger Emmerton, Wan Chai

Population size affects pollution

I refer to the report ('Greens put HK air 'shame' on the map', November 25).

A survey found that the level of fine [polluting] particles in Hong Kong's air is among the worst in more than 500 cities.

However, the survey was looking at the quantity of fine particles without considering populations and size.

Hong Kong is small, with a high population density and heavy traffic.

Of course it will have higher levels of pollution than, for example, Whitehorse in Canada.

This is an unfair ranking system to adopt.

Li Po-yee, Sha Tin