Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng: Extra charge for single-use bags necessary now

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Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng recommended in Parliament yesterday that Singaporeans should pay extra for all types of single-use carrier bags, not only plastic ones. The only exception to the surcharge, according to Mr. Ng, should be the plastic bags utilized for bagging produce.

Free bags will be made available as trash liners, but the surcharge would cut into the overall consumption of plastic bags, according to the PAP MP.

One million seabirds and 100,000 other marine animals are killed each year because of plastic dumped in the ocean.

Ng issued a dire warning in Parliament about the future of our oceans, “If we don’t do anything about it, there will be more plastics than fish in the ocean by 2050,” as he said that plastic use here has “reached a turning point.”

Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor added that the root of marine pollution is improper disposal of plastic waste: “We will not hesitate to legislate where necessary. But we will do so by taking a pragmatic and considered approach that suits our local context.”

Earlier this year, Parliament decided against imposing a charge on plastic bags, since replacing them with other alternatives may not be good for Singapore’s environment in the long run.

Khor said in March that bags made of paper or other biodegradable materials could be just as bad for the environment, since waste in Singapore is incinerated and then dumped in a landfill, instead of being allowed to decay naturally.

Yesterday, Khor cited a UK source saying that eco bags made of cotton should be used almost 175 times before it shows a better greenhouse gas emission impact than the plastic bags that line trash bins.

This is a heavily-debated issue in the nation. What Ng proposes is similar to what Hong Kong has done, but is something Khor says is difficult to implement. Apparently from one-third to one half of all retailers are non-compliant.

Ng said, “But at least Hong Kong is trying, and I’d rather be optimistic and say, not bad, 50 per cent of retailers are compliant, good start.” He cited that Miniso showed a drop of 75 percent of plastic usage after the stores started charging for every bag.

Ng said, “This throwaway culture is so deeply ingrained… Even when I take my own reusable bag to the supermarket, the cashier sometimes puts my groceries first into a plastic bag, and then into my reusable bag.”

Ng also encouraged the public to lead the country in lessening the sue of plastic. He also said, “If NDP (National Day Parade) 2019 were to use only reusable items with minimal packaging, it would send a strong signal that our nation is committed to building a sustainable world.”

Khor opined that companies need to report the amount and type of packaging as well as how they intend to reduce this by 2020 instead of 2021, as originally planned.

In 2019, the Government will be announcing its initiatives in a program called Zero Waste Masterplan.