Zero-waste target feasible for Hong Kong
I refer to the letter from Christine Loh, undersecretary for the environment ("Government plans to increase recycling rate and reduce waste", January 2), on waste and the need for additional landfills.
I hope she fully understands her role with regard to protection of our environment.
She talks of Hong Kong having "to dispose of about 9,000 tonnes of waste per day" even after measures she outlined have been implemented.
However, I believe the Environmental Protection Department and Environment Bureau should be seeking to adopt a zero-waste policy, and ensuring the government allocates sufficient resources to make that possible.
After all, Ms Loh is a former environmental activist.
I do not believe a proposed waste charging scheme will reduce volumes of waste. It will only lead to a transfer of the cost burden.
With regard to a zero-waste policy, all food waste can, and ought to be, recycled.
The same applies to another substantial generator of waste - the construction industry. This waste can be used again for building materials and this has already happened in London.
There are experts who could give the undersecretary guidance on this form of reuse of construction material.
The government should set up central food waste recycling and construction waste processing facilities at strategic locations.
Also, Ms Loh should aim to have legislation that effectively eliminates packaging. Firms involved in packaging products, such as retailers and importers, should have to take back packaging materials and return them to the manufacturers so that they can be reused.
This could eventually mean that products sold in Hong Kong would come with packaging that could be easily reused.
Consumers would get used to leaving packaging at the point of sale. A zero waste target date could be outlined, say 2020, by which time all our landfills will be full.
Nigel Lam, CEO, Carbon Neutral Consulting Limited
Diners could order less food at restaurants
Restaurants generate large volumes of food waste because often customers order more than they can eat.
Given that the government wants to reduce waste, the key, especially with young people, is education. They must learn to appreciate food as a precious resource. People going to restaurants need to be encouraged to only order what they know they can eat. Also, if they have too much food in the house, they should get into the habit of giving it to food banks run by charities. They make sure the produce gets to people who need it, such as the elderly and families on low incomes.
Legislation is still going to be needed to reduce the large volumes of food waste generated in Hong Kong.
This is a serious environmental problem and it must be addressed, not just by the government, but by all citizens.
Sara Fang, Tsuen Wan
Fishing ban in marine parks long overdue
It was many years in the making, but the ban on all trawling is now finally in effect.
The marine ecosystem has started the recovery process, and in years to come, the rewards will be rich indeed, from increased catches to the regeneration of coral communities and increased biodiversity. We may even get to swim in clearer waters teeming with fish once again.
The decision by the Food and Health Bureau to ban trawling in one of the most overfished waters in the world was courageous and globally significant, and deserves far greater recognition and applause.
However, society and the fishing community will not reap the full anticipated benefits until the Environment Bureau does its part and bans commercial fishing in our four marine parks. Unbelievably, several hundred commercial fishermen still have licences to fish without limits in these so-called conservation zones.
This measure, to turn the marine parks from private commercial fishing havens to the sanctuaries they should be, was pledged by the chief executive in 2008, but rejected by the Legislative Council due to insufficient consultation with the fishing community.
Four years have since passed, more than enough time for negotiations on appropriate compensation for loss of fishing grounds.
Now is the time for the government to finally bring about the necessary legislative changes to ban commercial fishing in our marine parks, covering 2 per cent of our sea, for the betterment of all Hong Kong.
Andy Cornish, Sheung Wan
Boxes for abandoned babies needed
The report about an abandoned baby ("Newborn baby girl left in Happy Valley church", January 7) reminded me of an article I once read about certain European cities having baby boxes where desperate mothers can anonymously leave their babies.
There is a need for such boxes in Hong Kong as this is not the first time this has happened.
A few years ago, a Filipino baby was found abandoned in a ground floor nook at World Wide House, showing that migrant workers experience this problem.
Local orphanages could help out, especially since this city surely has people looking to adopt children.
Vandana Marino, Discovery Bay
Bardot's stand on elephants admirable
I commend animal rights and anti-euthanasia activist Brigitte Bardot.
She is trying to save two Asian elephants, Baby and Nepal, who are supposedly suffering from tuberculosis in a Lyon zoo and who are "under threat of being put down" on Friday ("Irreverent Russians roast comrade Depardieu", January 5).
There appears to be almost a culture of death in society and we need to begin asking ourselves what kind of messages contemporary culture is giving us about the nature of good and evil.
We should remember the beliefs of St Francis of Assisi who called all creatures his "brothers" and "sisters," and even preached to the birds and supposedly persuaded a wolf to stop attacking some locals if they agreed to feed the wolf. As a result of his acts of kindness, Christians everywhere now celebrate the feast of St Francis of Assisi on October 4 by having their pets blessed in the spirit of this patron saint of animals and ecology.
I wish all people would share the belief with St Francis that all life is precious and that nature itself is the mirror of God.
Paul Kokoski, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Increase funding on mental health
Some countries in Asia have high suicide rates compared to countries in the West.
The suicide rate in Hong Kong is still high, although it has dropped in recent years.
This is thanks to the efforts of different sectors of society, for example, limiting access to charcoal in supermarkets [by taking bags of charcoal off the shelves] and increasing public education on this issue. But I think more can be done.
Many people still suffer from mental health problems in Hong Kong and elsewhere in the region, because the pace of life is much faster and people are under a lot more pressure in everyday life.
People in this city are so often in a rush. You see them walking fast everywhere, probably faster than in any other city.
There is a wide rich-poor gap and many citizens have trouble relaxing and leading healthy lifestyles.
Some suffer from serious depression and, without help, they may come to feel a sense of hopelessness when they face difficulties and tough challenges and believe they have failed in their lives.
They may feel that the best way to escape from these problems is to commit suicide.
In our society, greater attention must be paid to the mental health of citizens and those who have psychological problems must know that there is help available to them.
I think public education can help, through adverts, talks and workshops, so people can learn about coping mechanisms that enable them to maintain sound mental health.
They should be able to get expert and affordable help and, if necessary, the government should increase funding to make this possible.
With the collective efforts of everyone in our society, we should be able to see the suicide rate drop further.
I do not think it is unrealistic to hope that the rate can go down.
Teresa Fung Wing-man, Tsuen Wan
Fake beach has pollution problems
I think the government should abandon its plans to build an artificial beach in order to protect the environment and the species inhabiting Lung Mei, Tai Po.
Apart from the species that would be under threat, I am also concerned about the pollution problems related to the beach project.
I think there will be air, water and noise pollution.
Bad air problems will be exacerbated by the machinery that will have to be used to actually create this beach.
Also, there will presumably be noise issues for those Tai Po residents whose homes are near the site.
Osiris Law, Sheung Shui