By: Kheng-Liang Tan
Last October, the UK government imposed a 5p (S$0.09) charge on each plastic bag used. Within 8 months, the number of plastic bag usage dropped by 85% from 7b to 500m in the 7 main supermarkets for the first half of 2016.
By contrast, Singaporeans use 3 Billion plastic bags a year and attitudes has been quite contrasting. A 2012 Yahoo! survey which polled 15,000 Singaporeans showed that a staggering 66% were not in favor of paying for plastic bags.
There are numerous reasons why plastic bags are more harmful than they may seem: valuable resources such as oil are used in their production, while they take as much as 1,000 years to decompose while the environmental clean-up from their improper disposal is costly.
Governments around the world are aware of this and have already made a conscious effort to reduce the use of such plastic bags. This year, Indonesia has imposed a nominal 200 rupiah tax on the use of plastic bags while Montreal is aiming to ban plastic bags by 2018.
Currently, plastic bags account for 11% of waste in Singapore. However, there are more telling statistics: only 82,100 tonnes were recycled out of 721,300 consumed. Given the rest are sent to landfills, this adds to space pressure as well.
In a letter to the Straits Times, Aarti Giri suggested that “With the right mix of legislation, education and public awareness, we can make great strides in becoming an eco-friendly and sustainable nation.”
While there has been some effort in the past where supermarkets encouraged the use of one’s own plastic bag and a nominal charge, there seems to be the lack of legislation and corporate actions in Singapore to discourage the use of plastic bags.
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