Proposed glass levy will worsen waste problem

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 February, 2013, 5:14am


I refer to the report ("Green levy on more bottles", February 8) on a government proposal to levy a charge on water and fruit juices sold in glass bottles, and where the environment secretary admits the levy may eventually be imposed on glass bottles of sauces and food as well.

Glass is far more eco-friendly than plastics, and currently accounts for just 3 per cent of annual waste, as reported. Why is the government going after glass and not the far bigger environmental "culprit" - plastics?

Worse, plastic packaging will proliferate as retailers will choose to bring in fewer items in glass due to the charges. A purportedly earth-friendly measure will fan the reverse.

Glass is completely inert and has a perfect safety record as a food container. However, the higher costs of manufacturing and delivery has meant that only the most committed and principled food companies (usually European or Japanese) resist the encroachment of cheap plastic packaging and insist on delivering in traditional glass bottles or jars.

The cost of any levy is very likely to be passed on to all of us - both in decreased consumer choices and higher retail costs. Down the road, the cost of essential food items will go up - not just bottled beer and wine, but water and juices, and quite possibly cooking sauces, baby food, jams and traditional Chinese cooking preserves.

Where will our money go? "Towards hiring a contractor to set up a glass waste recovery network". Once entrenched, the contractor will defend its interests. If overall glass waste decreases, the contractor will lobby to increase the levy.

How about using the government budget surplus, instead of the public levy, to set up any recycling agency the government proposes? To be more sensitive to the cost burden on Hongkongers, levy only Veblen goods - alcoholic drinks that are currently tax-free - or levy plastics instead.

Wing Tang, Tai Hang