Letters to the Editor, April 1, 2013

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 April, 2013, 3:00am

Simple ways to make glass recycling safe

I would like to thank Alain Lam, of the Environmental Protection Department ("Construction industry will be able to absorb all recycled glass", March 19) for replying to my letter ("Avoid Europe's mistakes in recycling glass", March 8).

I would like to share with readers more details of our experiences in Sweden, where we have two separate glass recycling systems.

For standard drinks containers (glass, PET and aluminium) we have a deposit system. When returned to the supermarket redemption centre for deposit refund, glass bottles are sent back to the beverage factory, cleaned and reused.

Other glass containers, collected in recycling bins, are crushed. The powder is reused for building material, as Mr Lam suggests, or glass jars. It requires less energy to make new products from glass powder than from raw materials.

I'm glad to hear that Hong Kong has lamp collecting programmes as do we, but we still have the problem of light bulbs being dropped in glass recycling bins. Also, most compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) still end up in landfills, where the mercury spreads into the food chain - one teaspoon is enough to poison a medium-sized lake.

As mercury (Hg) vaporises at room temperature, it is a hazard to residents if broken in a closed space such as disposal rooms, to refuse collectors, to glass recycling workers when thrown in the wrong bin out of ignorance, and even to uninformed and unprotected lamp collectors. Hg vapour is 1,000 times more toxic than liquid mercury.

CFLs and LEDs also contain brominated polymers, aluminium, copper, nickel, phosphors, lead and other toxic metals.

The following measures were suggested but sadly not implemented in Sweden:

  • A highly visible warning label on the lamps, which would also alert unsuspecting consumers to toxic vapours in case of breakage; and
  • A deposit system for CFLs and LEDs, as an additional incentive.

Hong Kong has a unique chance to avoid our recycling problems by these simple measures.

Inger Glimmero, Stockholm, Sweden


Artists lose out as developers move in

I have no doubt that Amy Kong is right when she says that it is good to enhance cultural development in Hong Kong ("Right to be upbeat about city's arts hub", March 16).

However, I do not agree that local artists will have a better opportunity to promote their work arts through the government's policies for developing the arts.

While the administration talks about various arts projects, it is also pushing for the renovation of old industrial buildings that have been popular with local artists for their suitability as studios.

They are also perfect for bands which have few options for rehearsing given the noise problems in built-up urban areas.

Now, these people are losing these spaces as the factories are revamped.

Also, the arts are becoming more commercial and artists may be offered help only if they can make their work more profitable. This is tantamount to a loss of artistic freedom.

When it is considering new arts projects, the government must consider the different needs of all artists.

Cathy Wong Man-yuet, Kwai Chung


It was okay for Falklands, but not Hong Kong

I would like to express my congratulations to the British citizens living on the Falklands Islands, for having expressed democratically, earlier this month, their intention to stick with Britain.

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "We have always been clear that we believe in the rights of the Falklands people to determine their own futures and to decide on the path they wish to take.

"It is only right that, in the 21st century, these rights are respected."

This is the key point, I believe, that these lofty principles apply only for the 21st century. In the 20th century matters were quite different.

In particular why was a referendum not proposed before the handover of Hong Kong to China?

I have an answer - it is just a matter of size.

Angelo Paratico, Mid-Levels


Fuel surcharge just cannot be justified

Can I ask the Civil Aviation Department what are the criteria for granting an increase in fuel surcharges to airlines, announced recently?

The price of crude oil has actually gone down since March 2012 if you look at the New York Mercantile Exchange crude oil futures chart.

Our government is not protecting our rights, but only helping the airlines to bully Hong Kong citizens.

Joseph Lee, Pok Fu Lam


Shark listings herald new era of co-operation

I refer to the article by C.W. Cheung, of WWF-Hong Kong ("Shark-fin traders must disclose their sources", March 19).

The listing of sharks in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) at the recent meeting in Bangkok, is not an international condemnation of traders as claimed by WWF. Nor should the listing be seen as an intention by Cites to list all shark species, the majority of which do not meet Cites criteria, as being threatened by trade.

The Cites listing gives everyone an opportunity to co-operate to improve the sustainability of shark fishing.

It is time to bury hatchets and work together to ensure the Cites decisions are implemented. It is not really a time for WWF to focus on increased advocacy.

A fundamental principle of Cites is that nations can and should be the best protectors of their own wildlife, and so the onus of responsibility now falls on the nations that fish and export these species, not on the traders.

All exports of oceanic whitetip, hammerhead and porbeagle sharks, will need a Cites export permit issued by the exporting state. And to do this, their national fisheries must be sustainable. As any part of a listed shark species in trade (meat, fins, blood, cartilage, oil), exported in raw or processed form must now be identified, developing nations will be looking to wealthy organisations such as WWF, to lead the way. The fishing industry will clearly co-operate.

Future Cites involvement in fisheries will clearly depend on just how effectively the identification and strict trade controls are implemented.

Charlie Lim, chairman, Conservation and Management Committee, Marine Products Association


Bicycles with batteries can help elderly

An exchange between L. Charleston ("Call to recycle intelligence on 'danger' bikes", March 16) and Eddie Wong Kwok-wai, chief superintendent in the police public relations branch ("Police cracking down on illegal bikes, tricycles", March 23) on the traffic situation in Mui Wo, Lantau, is wide of the mark.

There are traffic related problems in Mui Wo, notably the great danger from very heavy trucks at great speed hurtling down South Lantau Road into the roundabout - a simple "sleeping policeman" would solve the problem.

Then there is the flotilla of private cars on the emergency access road to Pak Ngan Heung, again a problem readily solved.

To the matter raised by your correspondents, I won't deny that there is the odd irresponsible cyclist around, a danger to the community, but surely a risk-benefit assessment should be taken of the matter.

The legal situation with respect to battery-assisted pedal cycles ought to be rationalised (for example, by introducing speed controls) to permit use in cases where they are of great benefit.

In a place like Mui Wo where public transport access to the hinterland is non-existent, tricycles are an essential convenience for the aged, pregnant and invalids. Such an approach rather than a bureaucratic enforcement of outdated statutes is required.

Indeed, I appreciate the leniency heretofore of the local police in the matter, as I also appreciate their effective solution of the long-standing problem of the obstruction at the ferry exit caused by inconsiderately parked bicycles.

The occasional recalcitrants would be further discouraged if the police were to let the air out of their tyres.

P. Kevin MacKeown, Lantau


Beijing must keep citizens informed

The presence of thousands of dead pigs found floating down Shanghai's main river was a clear indication that there are still certain problems on the mainland that remain unresolved.

Popular blogger Xue Manzi criticised the government for deliberately blocking the news about dead pigs being dumped into the river in Jiaxing.

It is not uncommon for unwelcome news to be blocked in this way and that is not acceptable in the 21st century.

The central government should always keep the lines of communication open with its citizens.

The new leadership has pledged to curb excesses among officials and force them to economise.

I hope it is as good as its word and look forward to seeing improvements over the next few months.

Chow Wai-sim, Kwai Chung