Charging for plastic bags a tough call

Jose Raymond, Executive Director, Singapore Environment Council
Today Online 10 Jul 13;

The Singapore Environment Council (SEC) shares Ms Rachel Wong’s concern, in “Tougher measures needed to curtail use of plastic bags” (July 8), about the long-term sustainability of plastic bag use.

We agree that it is important to eliminate the wasteful use and improper disposal of plastic bags here. A few retailers, such as IKEA and some eco-stores, have implemented such strategies and have seen a significant drop in the number of plastic bags given to consumers each year.

While charging for plastic bags, which is a practice in many countries and legislated by law, may reduce the overall use of plastic bags in Singapore, we also recognise the need for a solution that is environmentally sustainable, economically viable, culturally appropriate and socially inclusive.

A blanket nationwide strategy such as implementing a charge for plastic bags may impose an additional burden on the household budgets of low-income groups, or ignore the fact that most households legitimately require a certain number of plastic bags for the hygienic disposal of garbage.

Additionally, placing a levy on plastic bags may not take into account wider issues, such as a pervasive culture of consumerism, the convenience barrier to changing behavioural practices and the overall waste management infrastructure here.

We agree with Ms Wong that people need to be aware of the reasons to reduce the use of plastic bags.

To arrive at a solution that takes these daily realities into account, the SEC has embarked on a research project to gain a comprehensive and culturally-relevant overview of the behavioural, economic and environmental dimensions of plastic bag use in Singapore.

Involving surveys of over 2,500 participants, focus group discussions with retailers and members of the public and interviews with environmental and economic experts, this research will be incorporated into a White Paper that proposes possible long-term solutions to this issue.

The results and recommendations of the White Paper will be ready in September.

Discount from BYOB not enough
Chin Kee Thou Today Online 10 Jul 13;

The call for “Tougher measures needed to curtail use of plastic bags” (July 8) is not feasible. Many consumers live in high-rise flats with common rubbish chutes, and they recycle these plastic bags into rubbish bags for disposal of both wet and dry refuse.

As the bags have practical uses, consumers would still need them.

The amount from the discount for bringing one’s own bag (BYOB) does not justify the cost if one were to otherwise buy rubbish bags.

If, as suggested by the writer, supermarkets charge extra to curtail the use of plastic bags, we may then find unbagged refuse being dumped in rubbish chutes. Imagine the condition then of the chutes, especially from the hygiene aspect.

BYOB day should mean No Plastic Bag day
Chlorin Chew Pei Wah Today Online 9 Jul 13;

I cannot agree more with the writer of “Tougher measures needed to curtail use of plastic bags” (July 8).

During the recent Hello Kitty promotion, I observed that the toys came in plastic packing bags. I understand that it is operationally efficient to pre-pack the toys, but I wonder how many bags were recycled by consumers. I saw consumers throwing away the bags after getting the toys.

The number of plastic bags used for takeaway food also increased, and I saw people throwing away not only the bags but also the food, as they wanted only the toys.

Besides raising the issue of wastage, I wish to urge supermarkets here to enforce Bring Your Own Bag (BYOB) Day such that no plastic bags are given out on that day.

I have seen shoppers in Johor Baru cope with these BYOB days in supermarkets there by bringing their own bags, and even cartons, for their purchases. Even if it is done once a week, imagine the number of plastic bags that would be saved.

Every little step counts, and all enterprises, big or small, can do their part to reduce the carbon imprint.

Tougher measures needed to curtail use of plastic bags
Rachel Wong Today Online 8 Jul 13;

In Singapore, 2.6 billion plastic bags are being thrown away every year.

To address this problem, the National Environment Agency has worked with the Singapore Environment Council to start Bring Your Own Bag Day, where customers are encouraged to carry reusable bags instead of plastic bags.

But how effective has this been? The use of plastic bags might be down, but tens of thousands are still being given out. Supermarkets should step up and take tougher measures to save the environment. If Bring Your Own Bag Day can be a weekly affair, why not make it a daily affair?

The lukewarm response to efforts made to introduce the use of reusable bags can be largely attributed to the fact that plastic bags are still being given out freely.

Knowing that there are plastic bags provided when we do our shopping, why would we go through the hassle of bringing reusable bags?

I suggest that we charge for all plastic bags, which will push Singaporeans — especially the younger generation — to develop the discipline to bring their own reusable bags.

Also, people should be made more aware of the reason we need to cut down on the use of plastic bags.

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