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High usage of plastic bags: Letting go is hard to do… or not?

Mr Louis Ng, Member of Parliament for Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency, proposed in Parliament that consumers should pay for single-use carrier bags made of all materials, not just plastic. He added, though, that they should not be charged for bags used to carry fresh produce. Whether the public agreed with his idea or not, it stirred up some lively discussion online about Singaporeans’ high dependency on supermarket plastic bags, with some who are already doing their bit to be eco-friendly offering tips on how to cut back on their use.

High usage of plastic bags: Letting go is hard to do… or not?

Mr Louis Ng, Member of Parliament for Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency, proposed in Parliament that consumers should pay for single-use carrier bags made of all materials, not just plastic.

He added, though, that they should not be charged for bags used to carry fresh produce.

Whether the public agreed with his idea or not, it stirred up some lively discussion online about Singaporeans’ high dependency on supermarket plastic bags, with some who are already doing their bit to be eco-friendly offering tips on how to cut back on their use.

 

 

If it’s such a concern, don’t even provide any carrier bag at all. To some people, paying 10 or 20 cents for a plastic bag is “peanuts”. So it will still not help curb the use of plastic bags. JONATHAN LAM

 

If there is a charge for all types of carrier bags, but it’s free for fresh produce, the line can be grey. We can put one item of fresh produce in different bags (and end up using many)… Be appropriate, charge every plastic bag, and the money collected must be used to support recycling funds or green initiatives. BEN WONG

 

I say even for fresh produce, we should discipline ourselves to bring our own bags for these. QI SIANG NG

 

Hong Kong has been doing it for about 10 years already. Singapore, please catch up. CHUA ZI HAN

 

I like those bags to remain free....no need to buy and it’s free to be recycled! SERI RAYNA

 

Next time we go hawker centres to pack chicken rice, must pay extra for plastic bag?… Supermarkets can leave empty cardboard boxes (after unpacking their stocks) for people to use. This can reduce the use of plastic carriers. LYDIA LAI

 

I retain and reuse all the plastic bags from grocery shopping for bagging rubbish. If I buy trash bags specifically for bagging rubbish, then it becomes pointless as it results in equal or even greater consumption of plastic bags. VALERIE WOO

 

It will not be pointless. When you buy plastic bags for trash, you will be more conscious of the usage, eg. maximise use of the bag after separating the recyclables before dumping. The plastic bags used will be reduced tremendously. KAEDE TSENG

 

I'm more worried about the exponential increase in the number of roaches after more people start dumping wet food into the rubbish chute. SHAWN HO

 

Pay consumers each time they don't use plastic bags. XU JIA YUAN

 

I remember we didn’t use plastic bags when I was living in a kampung. We used paper bags instead and we had separate bins for food waste. Every day, the pigs farmers will collect the food waste to feed their pigs and we get eggs once a year in return. But today, other than using a plastic bag for food waste, I cannot think of other alternatives… If the Government really wants to reduce usage of plastic bags, it has to solve the food waste disposal first. SAM JUNIOR

 

There's something called composting. You can google the ways to do that… It's possible, just a matter of how far you want to go to be earth-friendly. HUIJIN YAO

 

If you always have a large amount of food waste to throw every day, shouldn't you start to think about cooking an adequate amount to reduce wastage?... We are not saying we can stop this totally, at least make an effort to reduce consumption of one-time-use plastic bags. OICIN WONG

 

Sad to say that often, it is only through "paying" that you can make people realise how they should behave. AGNES MEURZEC

 

People will still pay for plastic bags if they have not enough reusable bags with them. And how many reusable bags can one possibly take along to shop when they do not know how much they will buy?... We're not equipped to convert waste to compost on our own. That costs time, space and money. Not all of us have that “luxury”. DAWN HO

 

Why do so many people think that the Government is out to “eat” our money and increase their revenue by charging for plastic bags? Perhaps one MP's anecdote may not resonate with the entire (voting) population, but it did help speak my mind and those of the people who care about this issue. To save the Earth, I believe every little effort counts. A simple behaviour modification strategy like “paying for the plastic bag” will work to some extent. Or BYOB, Bring Your Own Bag. (Worried) you won't know how many things you would buy? Then plan and make a list. When the Earth finally shows its wrath, everybody gets it, in big or small ways. GRACE CHANG

 

Not sure if you are aware of it: In Selangor, Malaysia, supermarkets and shops have stopped issuing one-time use plastic bags for a number of years now. Even my 79-year-old mum has embraced this. I was quietly impressed by this initiative of the state government. EELKEATCHIEW

 

I throw my rubbish with odd-sized bags I get from goods and products. If you just give it a try, you will notice we get many of these plastic bags somehow: Packaging from new clothes, bread loaf, toilet paper, multi-pack instant noodles, pre-packed fruits etc… We are just too used to thinking that only supermarket bags can be reused for trash bins. SUSAN TAN

 

In 2016, Singapore discarded 27 billion plastic bags; an average of 13 bags per person per day. Bread bags, frozen food bags, snack bags, veggie bags, toilet roll bags, even those cereal and Milo bags can all be reused to bag trash. If we were more mindful about our use of bags, we will see how many empty plastic bags we have dumped down the chute, unused. If these bags were actively reused, we really don't need any of those bags from supermarkets… Will we be able to tell our kids that we have done what we can within our means to protect the environment, or will we look back with shame for leaving them a completely trashed-up environment for them to clean? They don't deserve the consequence of our lack of care for the environment. Take action today. Make that difference for the sake of our future generations. JENNIFER LEE

 

This idea is totally sensible, doable, and timely. Also agree about the hygiene argument about putting fresh produce like raw chicken and fish in a separate bag. Overall, it will definitely reduce the amount of plastic bags used. As for the surcharge, we are going to learn the habit at a much faster rate this way without sacrificing a limb… The amount of whinging in this thread about just taking along your own grocery bag is surprising, to be honest. MARSHIELA GIOSISCA

 

Is there any difference in taking the “free” plastic bags to hold our groceries and our bio-waste disposals compared to those biodegradable plastics in Singapore’s context? Would the number of usage go down? Does it make those environmentalists feel better if the usage is still the same in numbers? If not, why ask us to buy those biodegradable plastic products? Another pay-and-pay approach? BENEDICT LOW

 

In Singapore, biodegradable plastic bags are irrelevant as we incinerate our trash. It's not a suitable alternative… Yes, please start charging for plastic bags, except for those bags for raw food. It's long overdue. For so many years, people in Singapore are too used to taking plastic bags without considering whether they even need one. There is enough packaging for us to reuse from our many purchases to bag our wet trash. Dry trash can be wrapped in newspapers. Community compost collection points can be encouraged. It's not the end of the world when Singapore levies charges on plastic bags. Many other countries already did. But if we keep on consuming it at such a rate, the consequences will be dire. XIAOWEI CHEN

 

FYI there’s a Telegram app group Share Our Plastic. Where you may request or give away excess plastic bags or containers, etc. There are people who have kitchen drawers full of plastic bags, so if you’re low on plastic bags and need some to throw your refuse at home, you can ask those who have a lot to give away. https://t.me/shareourplastic. NERIZZA BOON

 

Not sure why so many people are making noise... You are okay with shopping at Ikea where there are no plastic bags provided?

Now it is just a matter of going further, so why not? It is a bit of inconvenience, for sure. But many countries are already doing this. Just that this “plastic bag” culture is so much a part of our lifestyle. BRYEN YAP

 

Plastic waste and e-waste are killing the ecosystem. The recent decades of weather changes and environmental disasters is a sign we should not take lightly. The initiative starts with us. STEPHEN LIM CHEE WEI

 

Good baby steps! While it may cause inconvenience via a forced change of behaviour in the short term, but it benefits the environment in the long run. I support the initiative. CATHERINE ENG

 

Continue to educate the people on recycling; give large subsidies to the recycling plants, help them. JINGPENG CHEN

 

When we are overseas and get charged for bags, don't we all scramble to take out our reusable bags, hug what we can take along or bo pian (no choice) pay that few cents for the bags we need?... Only when we pay for bags would we know the cost of waste. What we throw away doesn't just go away. We pay a price, we just don't realise it… Even though we incinerate trash in Singapore, we still need to find space to bury the incinerated waste. Landfills require space. We have already used up land on mainland Singapore. The Pulau Semakau landfill is the only one left. We need to look for more sustainable solutions to handle our waste. These are all taxpayers’ money. Waste costs us money. LEONG SZE WEI

 

 

*Comments were first posted on TODAY's Facebook page and are edited for language and clarity.

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