Alternatives aplenty

Posted on November 9, 2010. Filed under: Waste |

-The Star-

By CHRISTINA CHIN and KIATISAK CHUA
north@thestar.com.my Photos by WAN MOHIZAN WAN HUSSEIN and GARY CHEN

Bagful of ideas: Rattan baskets and tiffin carriers make a comeback as sellers unveil more trendy packaging options ahead of the statewide plastic bag in Penang from Jan 1.

SHOPPING outlets in Penang are stocking up more alternative packaging for consumers in light of the statewide plastic shopping bag ban effective Jan 1.

Sunshine Wholesale Mart general manager Yee Kam Ming said the chain expected an increase in demand for environmental-friendly options including tiffin carriers, baskets and plastic wares.

“We have also stocked up on new innovative designs for lunch boxes, containers, recyclable bags and paper trays,” he said in response to the ban announced by Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng last week.

Yee said they also encouraged shoppers to use recyclable bags more instead of plastic ones.

He added that tiffin carriers and plastic containers were currently the in-trend for consumers.

Old and new options: Basket seller Chow Ah Lek and his son Saik Hong attending to customers at his shop on Penang Road.

“They are very popular, especially among schoolchildren and office workers,” he said.

Yee added that some hawkers had started buying paper trays and recyclable plastic containers to replace polystyrene ones.

Gama administration and marketing divisional manager Alexius Liew Wui Tiong said the store had been promoting the use of alternative packaging since January last year.

“We knew it would only be a matter of time before the ban, which was initially on Mondays, was extended to every day of the week.

“Gama has always been selling tiffin carriers and baskets but we have also been promoting locally-made clay bottles which are a great alternative to plastic water tumblers,” he said.

Liew said he expected such items to become more popular now, adding that the supermarket would be on the lookout for “more trendier” designs.

Gama’s planning department manager Tan Seem Hai displaying alternative food carriers and containers.

He said what was important now was for shopping outlets to aggressively promote these alternative carriers.

“We need to encourage consumers to change their shopping habits. One way to do that is by letting them know that there are attractive, environmental-friendly options besides plastic bags,” he said

A housewife, who wished to be known only as Betty, said she would usually go marketing with her basket instead of plastic bags.

“However, I usually carry my cloth bag when I go shopping in the supermarket,” she added.

Chow Saik Hong, 50, who sells rattan materials at his shop on Penang Road, admitted the demand for rattan baskets was rather high but there was a lack of supply.

Sunshine’s Yee Kam Ming showing samples of paper trays that make suitable replacements for polystyrene food containers.

“We have stopped ordering new stocks as the only basket maker in Penang is very old and his children are not interested in learning the trade,” said the 50-year-old, who runs the store with his father, Chow Ah Lek.

For G. Rajagopal and his wife, S. Santhi, they have stopped using plastic bags since the hypermarkets started selling cloth bags.

“We have lots of recyclable bags at home and will always have a few recyclable ones on standby in our car in case we need to do some unplanned shopping,” said the 46-year-old.

The move to reduce the state’s carbon footprint is an extension of the current ‘No Plastic Bag Day’ in shopping centres and hypermarkets every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

The ruling will cover all hypermarkets, supermarkets, departmental stores, pharmacies, fast food restaurants, nasi kandar outlets, convenience stores including petrol kiosks and chain stores.

Mini markets and sole proprietorship businesses will have to adhere to the ruling on Tuesdays and Wednesdays as well, in addition to Mondays, before their licences can be renewed.

On July 1 last year, Penang became the first state to implement a ‘No Plastic Bag Day’ ruling in shopping complexes and hypermarkets every Monday, before it was extended to Tuesdays and Wednesdays as well from Jan 2 this year.

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