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Only take what you need for rubbish disposal

Director of Communications and Outreach,

Director of Communications and Outreach,

Singapore Environment Council

The Singapore Environment Council thanks Ms Caslin Lee and Mr Goh Kian Huat for their feedback on our position paper on plastic bags in Singapore.

We share Ms Lee’s concern, in “Free plastic bags from supermarkets do not go to waste” (Oct 5), about hygienic waste disposal. This is why we do not seek to impose a daily charge on plastic bags, nor ban them from being given out at supermarkets.

Our recommendations, based on extensive research, are targeted at reducing wastage arising from taking small bags with low potential for secondary use, or people taking more bags than they need for rubbish disposal, simply because they forgot to bring their own bags.

In scenarios where individuals plan their grocery shopping only on weekends, we agree that it would be difficult to acquire the necessary plastic bags to store rubbish.

A solution could be for consumers to estimate the number needed for rubbish disposal and only take as many free plastic bags and use reusable bags for remaining purchases.

To offset any additional costs, we will work with retailers to provide more incentives to shoppers who bring their own bags for some or all of their purchases.

To address Mr Goh’s concerns, in “Find biodegradable alternatives, but we still need disposable bags” (Oct 7), our recommendations state that supermarkets should not profit from plastic bag charges.

The money would go into a fund to support initiatives by community groups, young entrepreneurs and food and beverage vendors to develop ideas to minimise plastic waste in Singapore, and offer rebates to customers who avoid plastic takeaway containers and bags.

Our recommendation for second-hand reusable bags near cashier counters emphasises that cashiers should offer this option explicitly for non-food items, such as household cleaners and toilet paper.

The use of biodegradable plastic may generate more waste, as it cannot be recycled, unlike high density polyethylene bags. Paper or cloth bags cannot be successfully used as bin liners and would not be a suitable replacement for plastic bags, either.

We will take Ms Lee’s and Mr Goh’s feedback into account for our campaign on this issue.

While the SEC has made every effort to ensure that our recommendations are not too inconvenient to implement, we also believe that everyone can put in small efforts to ensure a clean, safe and sustainable world for future generations.

We welcome feedback via the #lessplasticsg hashtag on Twitter and Facebook and we invite all interested parties to read the entire position paper on sec.org.sg

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