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January 4th, 2009:

Paper Bags Can Easily Be Used By Shoppers

SCMP – Updated on Jan 04, 2009

The Legislative Council should pass the government’s proposal to levy plastic shopping bags at 50 cents each.

However, it should review the levy after implementation of the law if the amount of plastic bags being used remains unchanged.

Like cigarette tax, the plastic bag levy is a way of changing people’s habits.

The tobacco tax has proved effective at reducing smoking in the United States.

In the case of a tax on plastic bags in Hong Kong, if the levy fails in its purpose of reducing use of plastic bags, then they should be outlawed.

I do not think this is unreasonable. Reusable plastic bags, however, should still be allowed.

Paper shopping bags have been in use for many years and such bags can also hold household refuse.

It would be a marvellous idea if a strip could be added to the paper bag, which seals the top, to ensure the hygienic disposal of refuse.

I think this idea of a paper bag would offer a most practical solution when it comes to how we bag our groceries and take them home.

John Yuan, Beijing

Tour Bus Operators Seek 3-Year Idling Exemption

Tour bus operators seek 3-year exemption from idling-engine ban

Vivienne Chow and Paggie Leung – SCMP – Updated on Jan 04, 2009

Tour bus operators have called for a three-year exemption from a proposed ban on parked vehicles with idling engines, a day after the government watered down its proposed measures against other commercial drivers.

After meeting officials from the Environment Bureau yesterday, Public Omnibus Operators Association vice-chairman Leo Yip Wing-ching said tour bus drivers had different operational needs than other commercial drivers. He said more time would be needed for them to get used to the new regulation.

“The passengers of tour buses are mainly tourists and they always jump on and off the vehicle,” he said. “We can’t switch on the engines and air conditioning when a passenger gets on the bus, and on sunny days it takes at least 20 minutes for the [inside of the] vehicle to cool down.”

On Friday, following strong opposition from commercial-vehicle drivers, a government source said more exemptions would be made for taxis, minibuses and heavy vehicles.

Stationary turbocharged diesel vehicles would be exempted for three minutes. Traffic wardens and Environmental Protection Department staff would penalise a driver who allowed a vehicle to idle any longer.

Violators would be fined HK$320 without warning, but Mr Yip said drivers should be warned first.

“At least a driver should be warned when the traffic wardens or staff start counting the three minutes,” Mr Yip said.

However, the environmental concern group Green Sense said more exemptions were unnecessary.

“We think that this is unreasonable because a lot of the shopping areas and sight-seeing spots are located on busy streets,” said group president Roy Tam Hoi-pong. “If tour buses do not switch off the engines, they just make the air quality worse. Also, tour bus operators have to take responsibility… many of them choose buses with fixed windows that cannot be opened, meaning that they have to rely on air conditioning.”

Other exemptions under the revised proposal include allowing the first five taxis in a queue at a stop to run their engines, instead of two.

The new proposal will also exempt the first two green minibuses at a stop, and any two red minibuses at a stop would be exempted if there were passengers in the first vehicle.

A spokesman for the Hong Kong Container Tractor Owners Association said the association supported the government’s revised proposal. He said three minutes was enough to allow engines to cool.

A five-month consultation on the ban was launched in November 2007. While the proposal had the general support of the public, it faced strong opposition from drivers of commercial vehicles.