Malaysia: Ban on plastic bags off to a good start despite complaints

The Star 2 Jan 17;

SUBANG JAYA: The ban on polystyrene food containers and free plastic bags in Selangor and the Federal Territories got off to a smooth start although some shoppers were annoyed by it.

Entrepreneur May Chung, 40, questioned whether the policy was really environmentally friendly.

She said while she used to re-use plastic shopping bags for garbage, she now had to buy plastic bags specifically for trash.

“It’s the customers who end up having to pay more,” she said.

Previously, Selangor held a “No Plastic Day” every Saturday but the campaign was extended to seven days a week starting yesterday.

Shoppers in Selangor can still get single-use plastic bags from stores at a minimum charge of 20 sen each.

Apart from the ruling on plastic bags, Selangor, along with Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan, has also banned polystyrene food containers.

Perak and Johor have also announced that they would ban the use of polystyrene containers and plastic bags from June.

Housewife Tan Lee Hing, 48, said it was troublesome to bring along too many reusable bags, especially when she was unsure how much groceries she would be buying.

“Sometimes the store doesn’t have what you want or you buy extra stuff on a sale.

“It’s hard to guess how many bags to bring,” she said.

A check at a grocery store here revealed that cashiers were informing shoppers about the new rule, and there were also signs at the checkout counters about the 20 sen charge per bag.

However, the store provided free cardboard boxes for customers with many items, and sold reusable non-woven bags (RM3.50) and cloth bags (RM18.90).

A check at the food court in the same mall revealed that all the stalls were using either plastic boxes or cardboard boxes instead of polystyrene containers for packing food.

A restaurant worker, identified as Noraiza, said she had already been using the cardboard boxes before the new rule as it was standard to use boxes that had the company’s branding.

In Rawang, shoppers at a mall and patrons at several eateries were seen bringing along their own reusable bags and containers.

Air-conditioning technician Wong Chew Wha, 53, said he always has some reusable bags in his car.

“I, too, want to help save the environment and make the Earth a better place to live in for future generations.

“This is not something new; we have been doing this on every Saturday for the past few years,” he added.

Hawker Samiya Anggilou said the food boxes she used now were twice as expensive as polystyrene food containers.

“But since this is the law, I have to follow,” she said.

Samiya also said she was confused whether she was still allowed to use small plastic bags to pack drinks for customers.

More education needed on ban
VINCENT TAN The Star 3 Jan 17;

PETALING JAYA: Selangor’s ban on plastic bags is just into its second day and it is clear there needs to be more education on the policy.

Although wet market chicken seller Tan Yew Leong is technically exempted from the “no plastic bag” rule, he felt the education process could have been done much better.

He said if city council or state government officers went to the ground to educate consumers, he and his colleagues could save RM100 a week by not buying plastic bags for customers.

He said official posters or banners explaining the ban in detail would be helpful.

“Right now, even if we explain the ban to customers, we do not have anything to point to except the newspaper announcements, which people may have missed,” he said.

Petaling Jaya City Council solid waste management unit head Lee Lih Shyan said limiting the source of plastic bags was a good strategy, given the attitude in Malaysia.

He added that when fewer plastic bags go into a landfill, its lifespan is extended.

For Kuala Lumpur resident Kuee Su San, Selangor’s ban on plastic bags was a good one.

“I knew about the upcoming ban, so I have been bringing a reusable shopping bag,” said Kuee, who admitted that even so she still needed reminders to bring her own container to pack takeaways.

In Johor Baru, the state government said it hoped to reduce some 131,400 tonnes of polystyrene and plastic waste annually once it enforced the use of biodegradable food containers in 2018.

State Health and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said they were in the middle of educating and creating awareness.

Meanwhile, Johor Baru City Centre mayor A. Rahim Nin said they would stop using polystyrene and plastic containers at their events immediately.

Many customers choose to bring own containers for food
QISHIN TARIQ The Star 3 Jan 17;

PETALING JAYA: Many customers are doing their bit for the environment by choosing to bring their own containers and tiffin carriers to buy food.

They chose not to use the plastic boxes provided by food stalls following the ban of polystyrene containers.

University student Grace Yeoh, 47, believed tiffin carriers were healthier options as she did not trust putting hot food into plastic boxes.

The Penangite had been using a tiffin carrier for over two years as the state had banned the use of polystyrene since 2012.

Selangor, along with Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan, had introduced a similar ban starting Jan 1.

Yeoh said she did not find it inconvenient or expensive as the tiffin carrier was reusable.

A check at several kopitiam around Petaling Jaya revealed that hawkers had started using plastic boxes instead of polystyrene ones.

However, they still gave customers plastic bags to carry their takeaway.

Kitchen Shop senior sales consultant Kasturi Maniam, 39, said sales of reusable containers had been brisk leading up to the ban.

“I recommend customers to get the stainless steel containers because they’re long lasting and don’t stain, compared to plastic,” said Kasturi who had been using such boxes for her family for about two years.

Liew Kelvin, 32, and his wife Jeanne Ng, 29, said they considered buying more reusable containers following the ban.

We don’t like using plastic for food,” he said.

Manager Yong Min Jie, 36, said bringing containers from home was troublesome.

“I’m a guy who prefers convenience, so I don’t mind paying for plastic bags or boxes as I shop,” he added.

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