Lim laments NGO silence on “no plastic bag” drive

Posted on December 21, 2010. Filed under: Waste |

-The Sun-

Under attack from plastic manufacturers who are countering Penang’s “No Free Plastic Bags” campaign, the state government has expressed disappointment at environmental NGOs for not backing its initiative.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said he felt let down by NGOs that had not supported the campaign, especially in the face of pressure the state now faced from the RM7 billion plastics industry.

“If the MPMA (Malaysian Plastics Manufactures Association) succeeds in bringing down our campaign, such an effort will not only fail in Penang but also in the whole of Malaysia,” he told a press conference today. “This is the first battlefield for the environment.”

Effective Jan 1, all hypermarkets and supermarkets in the state are prohibited from giving away free plastic bags.

The association’s northern region branch had announced last Saturday a counter campaign to address the “myths” about plastic bags, insisting that plastic bags are not as bad as portrayed.

Lim said while some quarters had shown support, there was an urgent need for NGOs to explain to the public the rationale behind the ban and the advantages it would bring for the environment.

He said he was disappointed with local NGOs who have been vocal about the environment but remained silent on the campaign.

“Don’t hide in your homes or your air-conditioned rooms … They must become active in promoting this campaign because the state is under attack,” he said.

The association met with Lim on Nov 11 about its objections.

The state government clarified that it was not imposing a complete ban. Consumers can still get plastic bags at hypermarkets and supermarkets at 20 sen per bag with the money going to charity.

Furthermore, normal shops are only restricted from giving free plastic bags three days a week, while hawkers and petty traders are not affected

Lim said he asked the MPMA for proof that the state’s programme is affecting the industry’s business.

“Till now we have received nothing,” he said. “We knew that our efforts would have an impact on our popularity, but this is a sacrifice we are making to protect the environment,” he said.

He said the campaign will be launched on Jan 1 at Sunway Carnival Mall on mainland Penang.

The association is distributing fliers and some 30,000 recycled plastic bags with the purported myths and facts printed on the bags.

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