Malaysia: Is life without plastic bags possible in Penang? Yes, say NGOs

BALVIN KAUR New Straits Times 30 Mar 19;

GEORGE TOWN: Penang non-governmental organisations have called on the state government to ramp up its efforts to tackle the problem of single-use plastic bags in the state.

While welcoming the state government’s move to mull increasing plastic bag charges to 50 sen a piece for consumers, they believe that more needs to be done to beef up existing regulations.

Consumer Association of Penang president S.M Mohamed Idris said that despite Penang being the first state to implement a ‘no free plastic bags policy’ in the country back in July 2009, it is still being widely used in Penang.

“The ‘no free plastic bag’ ruling only applies to shopping outlets but not hawkers and markets,” he said.

He said Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow’s admission that almost RM9 million was collected from plastic bag charges over the last 10 years was “shocking”.

“This shows that even with the charges, many are still using plastic bags. This is why a more rigorous implementation is needed on existing regulations,” he said.

He said a nationwide ban on plastic bags is not impossible, citing the example of Rwanda, which has made it illegal to import, produce, use or sell plastic bags and plastic packaging, except within specific industries like hospitals and pharmaceuticals.

He said the tough ban on plastic bags in Kenya since August 2017 has proven successful in cleaning up the country, leading other African nations like Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and South Sudan to consider following suit.

“In China, a ban on thin plastic bags led to a 60 to 80 per cent reduction in its use in supermarkets, while in Denmark and Finland, the average annual consumption of lightweight plastic bags is only four per person.

“Life without plastic bags is possible, as observed in countries that have imposed strict bans. There is no excuse. It is time we get rid of single-use plastic bags for good,” he said.

Earlier today, Chow said the state government was considering increasing the RM0.20 plastic bag charge to RM0.50.

Chow had said that the suggestion from State Environment committee chairman Phee Boon Poh would be put before the stakeholders for discussion before it is approved.

The suggestion, according to Chow, follows the discovery that some 50 per cent of the population were still using plastic bags.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Nature Society Penang branch adviser D. Kanda Kumar said the suggestion to increase the plastic bag charge was welcome, but that the ‘war’ against plastic bags can never be won if a similar charge is not placed on hawker stalls.

“Most of our plastic consumption is from hawker stalls. People buying from hawker stalls rarely carry their own containers.

“If someone buys a few items from different hawker stalls in one centre, they would have already collected several plastic bags.

“The prohibition on plastic bags must be extended to hawker stalls as well,” he said.

He said Penang should also consider implementing a policy requiring malls, supermarkets and other outlets to provide paper bags instead.

“It’s fine if they impose a charge but I think the next step should be a complete ban,” he said.

Penang's plan to increase plastic bag charges depends on stakeholders engagement
BALVIN KAUR New Straits Times 30 Mar 19;

GEORGE TOWN: The state's plan to increase charges for plastic bags from the current 20 sen to 50 sen will only be implemented once discussions and feedback from various stakeholders on the matter are taken into account.

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said State Environment committee chairman Phee Boon Poh, during a state executive council meeting yesterday, had suggested increasing the plastic bag charges.

He said this was to intensify the state’s plastic bag usage awareness campaign.

Chow said the proposal follows the discovery that even though some 50 per cent were using their own recyclable bags, many however were still willing for fork out 20 sen for plastic bags.

“Since we started the no plastic bag policy in 2009, we had collected about RM8 to RM9 million in plastic bag charges.

“This big collection shows that users were still willing to pay for plastic bags and that the charges did not deter them from using plastic bags.

“Phee feels that the 20 sen charge is not high enough and imposing a higher plastic bag charge will create better awareness.

“I have asked for multiple sessions of engagement with stakeholders to be conducted before any decision is made,” he said.

He told this to reporters after attending the Inspiring Future Leaders conference organised by the Penang Women Chamber of Commerce, here, today.

Chow said there were no concrete plans to increase the charges at the moment and that it was only at the suggestion stage.

“It is only a suggestion but we can see from the response and reaction that it had already increased awareness,” he said.

The Chief Minister added that the issue of plastic bag usage must be taken seriously as it has a high impact on the environment.

“Plastic disposal is a problem as it is found in rivers and many places leading to pollution.

“Our plastic bag usage awareness campaign is to ensure that our environment is not polluted,” he said.

Chow said the state government had also started the no single use plastic policy at its administrative offices and found that the effort had massively reduced plastic usage in the offices.

”Even though plastic can be recycled and that some people think it's an industry but we however feel this effort involves everyone.

“It is multifaceted and it involves several parties including the federal government, malls, manufacturers as well as small traders such as hawkers and grocery stores.

“As the state government can only control certain things, we need other stakeholders to step in and help in the effort to curb plastic usage,” he said.

Chow also acknowledged that enforcement needed to be stepped up on an effort to eradicate all forms of pollution in the state including that of plastic usage.

“There will be a time in the future when we will ban plastic bag usage altogether. This would also be included in the stakeholders meetings,” he said.

Meanwhile asked on transitioning from plastic to paper bags, Chow said it was up to vendors to undertake.

Impose higher charges for plastic bags
Nor Ain Mohamed Radhi New Straits Times 30 Mar 19;

KUALA LUMPUR: Netizens have backed a move to increase the current fee of RM0.20 for each plastic bag purchased at retail outlets in a move to further intensify awareness among consumers.

The support came after the Penang government proposed to increase the current charge of 20 sen for each plastic bag to 50 sen.

Zuraidah Zainal Abidin wrote on @NSTOnline Facebook saying that the amount should be higher than the RM0.20 sen imposed now.

Facebook user Tan Sion said in a move to create awareness among consumers a charge of RM1 should be imposed for each plastic bag.

Another social media user Mokhtar Yusoff proposed a much higher charge - RM5 for each plastic bag.

“Only then can you see a tremendous change in the attitude of the consumers,” he wrote.

Razalie Hassan said the best measure was to impose a total ban on the use of plastic bags.

“Better awareness is to totally abolish the use of plastic bags, not making profit from its sale.”

His sentiment was echoed by John Wong who called for a total ban on plastic bags.

“A total ban is simpler,” he said.

It was reported that the Penang government proposed to charge 50 sen for each plastic bag, should the consumers need one.

Although the plan will only be implemented after discussion and feedback from various stakeholders, many have voiced their support for the go-green move.

Penang is the first state to introduce the ‘No Free Plastic Bag’ campaign on each Saturday since 2009, with a charge of 20 sen for each plastic bag.

The campaign then extended to all days in 2011.

Back in 2014, the Melaka government introduced three days of ‘No Plastic Bag Day’, where consumers were required to bring their own bags every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The move then was extended to every day from January 2016.

In Selangor, the ‘No Free Plastic Bag’ on Saturday was introduced in January 2010 before it was made mandatory seven days a week in January 2017, with each plastic bag disbursed charged 20 sen.

Five months after its implementation, a total of RM1.87 million had been collected from shoppers in the state.

The collection, however, only involved supermarkets and food outlets which had informed the state government, through their trade associations, with 63.98 per cent of the collection coming from supermarkets.

It was reported last year that the Selangor government was aiming for a total ban of plastic bags by 2030. This is in line with the country’s ‘Road Map Towards Zero Single-Use Plastic 2018-2030’ launched last October.

In Kedah, starting April, consumers will have to pay 20 sen for every plastic bag, should they need one, on every Friday and Saturday.

Penang may raise plastic bag levy to 50 sen
The Star 30 Mar 19;

GEORGE TOWN (Bernama): The Penang government will hold a discussion with stakeholders before it decides to implement a plastic bag levy of 50 sen instead of the 20 sen imposed now.

Chief Minister, Chow Kon Yeow, said the proposal was discussed at a state exco meeting yesterday (March 29), but he has asked for stakeholders to acquire more input from the public before it is carried out.

"In Penang, we've found that although there is a plastic bag levy, people are still willing to pay it.

"Since the implementation of the 'No Free Plastic Bag' policy in 2009, about RM8mil to RM9mil has been collected levies.

"This shows that consumers are still not dissuaded from paying the 20 sen per bag," he told reporters on Saturday (March 30) after launching the "Inspiring Future Leaders" conference by the Penang Women Chamber of Commerce (PWCC).

Earlier, state Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said the state government was considering increasing the plastic bag charge after it was found that things were not going as expected when it came to reducing plastic bag usage.

Nevertheless, Chow said since the 20 sen levy was implementated, 50% of consumers now brought their own shopping bags, which was evidence of some environmental awareness.

"What we've done is just a small push towards ensuring the environment is not polluted.
"Apart from this, there is also the 'No Single-Use Plastic' movement, which must be escalated. There are many things that can and must be done," he said.

However, asked if the state government would ban the use of plastic totally, Chow said it would be discussed with stakeholders.

"The time will come when we have to do things progressively. Over time, we will see a new lifestyle," he said. – Bernama