Hong Kong environmental issues
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A stack of recycled drinks cartons at Mil Mill on September 27. Hong Kong’s only drinks carton recycler could be forced out of business if its lease is not renewed before the end of the year. Photo: K.Y. Cheng

Letters | Hong Kong recycler Mil Mill’s troubles highlight need to make recycling profitable

  • Readers discuss the urgency to implement a producer responsibility scheme, the doctors faking Covid-19 exemptions and the Hindu view on euthanasia
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In 2009, then chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen announced in his policy address that the government would promote the development of six industries, including the environmental industry. However, the recycling industry seems to be going backward.

Before a privately owned recycling plant called Mil Mill began operations, used liquid cartons were treated as waste rather than a resource. In the past three years, the initiative to recycle cartons has been gaining traction as the public increasingly understands that they can be recycled.

However, the lease for Mil Mill is set to run out soon. Mil Mill and the public have urged the Environmental Protection Department to help resolve the impasse by liaising with the landlord or finding another place for Mil Mill to continue its operations.

Mil Mill has been struggling to get enough feedstock to generate high-quality wet pulp to produce saleable recycled product while reducing pressure on landfills.

If the Environmental Protection Department cannot help the only liquid carton recycling plant sustain its operations, the concerted efforts made by the government, businesses, NGOs and members of the public in the past few years will be a total waste. The public will doubt whether the administration is serious about waste reduction and its overall environmental efforts.

Success will happen only if the producer responsibility scheme for beverage containers is in force. If such a scheme is in force and if it covers not just PET bottles, but also liquid cartons, then the recycling of liquid cartons is likely to become a profitable business. In that case, a recycler such as Mil Mill would have more options of land to rent.

But despite The Green Earth and others urging the EPD to develop such legislation for years, there only is a vague timeline saying that the legislation may be implemented by 2025 the earliest, and that only PET bottles will be regulated by giving a rebate of just 10 HK cents (1 US cent) per bottle.

Singapore might be ahead of us. Its National Environment Agency is inviting views on its Beverage Container Return Scheme, which is proposed to be implemented by mid-2024. The agency has established a more vigorous framework, which proposes to charge a refundable deposit of 10 to 20 Singapore cents (7 US cents to 14 US cents) when a pre-packed beverage is purchased. It proposes to include liquid cartons in a separate phase from PET bottles.

This Mil Mill issue has sent a clear signal to the EPD that the producer responsibility scheme for beverage containers must cover all types of pack formats. Leaving out one type will create a loophole for beverage producers to continue making profits without shouldering their due environmental responsibility.

Edwin Lau Che-feng, executive director, The Green Earth

Certificate fakers deserve harsh treatment

The word “shame” perfectly describes the behaviour of the doctors accused of issuing false exemption certificates for people to avoid Covid-19 restrictions. Chief Secretary Eric Chan Kwok-ki echoes the sentiments of ordinary Hongkongers who have endured great personal sacrifice.

The pursuit of profit from doctors who threw aside their obligation to the four pillars of ethics that govern them – doing good, not doing harm, giving the patient the freedom to choose freely where they are able and ensuring fairness – is repugnant. They have embarrassed Hong Kong on the international stage, as have those who thought they were above the rest of society in using the false instruments provided.

It will be testament to the rule of law in Hong Kong that all those found guilty receive the most severe of sentences.

Mark Peaker, The Peak

Re-education key to assisted suicide debate

I refer to your editorial, “A necessary debate on life and death” ( September 11) and would like to share Hindu point of view on this vital issue.

The Hindu mystics came to the conclusion that a person’s happiness or suffering is directly an outcome of their actions. Right actions will lead to happiness and peace, while wrong actions will hand out suffering.

A Hindu believes in rebirth. The body-mind complex is born and dies after exhausting its quota of joy and suffering. One cannot outsmart the cosmic law by committing suicide or mercy killing. One would only be compounding one’s pain by disobeying the law of action.

The solution is that the mind needs to be re-educated and made aware of the law of action. This education needs to be reinforced through the simple technique of meditation. Let our government and carers experiment with this concept and come to their own conclusion. Right understanding of the laws of life shall lead to right actions.

K.P. Daswani, Mid-Levels