Not so green, NTU stores give out plastic bags freely despite initiative to cut down usage
SINGAPORE — On the first day of a campus-wide movement to hand out plastic bags only on request, it appeared that some businesses at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) did not get the memo. Some of them continued to distribute plastic bags to students and staff on Monday (Sept 3) although patrons did not ask for them.
SINGAPORE — It was the first day of a campus-wide movement to hand out plastic bags only on request, but it appeared that some businesses at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) did not get the memo.
Caught off guard, some of them continued to distribute plastic bags to students and staff on Monday (Sept 3) although patrons did not ask for them.
TODAY's visit to the NTU campus on Monday found that crew at fast-food outlets KFC, Pizza Hut, Subway, and Long John Silver's, as well as food court stalls at the North Spine Plaza, continued to give out plastic bags freely.
At KFC, for instance, staff members were seen packing all takeaways in plastic bags. Students and staff members who patronised these food outlets said the crew did not ask if they needed the bags.
The initiative to cut the use of plastic bags comes about a month ahead of a wider move to halt distribution at the university's more than 50 food and retail outlets, as well as at campus events. From Oct 1, retailers — including supermarkets Prime and Giant — will charge 20 cents for each plastic bag.
The North Spine food court's manager, who declined to be named, said he had not received word on the initiative from the university, but had learnt about it through the news.
When queried about the lack of awareness among some outlets, an NTU spokesperson said notices have been posted at the cashier counters of the two supermarkets and two convenience stores to inform customers and "give them time to adjust to the change".
"The other retailers and food outlets will be roped in progressively in the coming weeks," added the spokesperson.
At Prime supermarket, cashiers were seen telling customers about the 20-cent charge that will kick in next month.
Most of the students approached by TODAY were aware that they would have to fork out money for a plastic bag from next month, and said they would bring a reusable bag or store their purchases in their backpacks. Others said they would not mind paying for a plastic bag if they really needed it.
Some students, however, felt that a 20-cent charge would not be enough to wean customers off plastic bags.
Second-year business student Low Zi Qing, 21, said charging 20 cents was "too little", adding that the fee could be increased to 50 cents a bag.
Biological science student Vartika Goenka, 19, said that while any fee levied on plastic bags would hurt, charging 40 cents a bag would make it so "outrageous" for patrons that they would not want one. A third-year chemical engineering student, who gave her name only as Ms Varsha, 21, said patrons should be charged "no more than S$1 (a bag)".
Other students suggested that the university could do more to help save the environment.
Mr Darren Lou, 22, who went on a student exchange programme to Finland last year, noted that NTU's halls of residence could take a leaf from how recycling points at Finnish supermarkets provide a 40-cent rebate for returning a used 1.5-litre bottle, for instance.
This would incentivise students to recycle plastic bottles, aluminium cans and glass bottles, and could be administered by the hall's office or student committee, he said.
"I hope such initiatives can be implemented for each hall cluster," said the chemical-engineering student.
NTU's move to do away with free plastic bags, announced last week as its president Subra Suresh unveiled the university's five-year plan, is expected to save nearly 10 million plastic bags a year.
This is based on a household's daily average of 1.6 plastic bags and the NTU's community of about 17,000 households in its student hall rooms and staff residences, said the university's spokesperson. Proceeds from the sale of plastic bags will go into the university's student assistance fund.
Even before the NTU's scheme kicks off next month, at least one campus retailer is already charging patrons for plastic bags. Gift and lifestyle shop Mini Toons levies 10 cents on each plastic bag requested by patrons, a move rolled out across its stores islandwide in May.
Its operations manager Nicholas Yong said he would discuss with his management team whether it would revise its fee to 20 cents, but said the store would most likely stick to its original fee. "It is the same goal, which is to reduce plastic bags," he added.
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