No Plastic Bag Campaign Rubbish, say plastic makers

Posted on January 17, 2011. Filed under: Waste |


PLASTIC bag makers felt the pinch when the no-plastic bag ruling was enforced in Selangor and Penang.

Malaysian Plastics Manufacturers Association (MPMA) president Lim Kok Boon says the campaign affects manufacturers whose sole product is the plastic bag.

“We have yet to determine the total losses from this move. However, one manufacturer had indicated that its output of plastic bags went down by half after Penang imposed the three-day ban per week.”

He says some manufacturers are now producing plastic garbage bags as people have to purchase more of them because they can’t get the free packets at shops.

Lim adds the situation is ironic as there will be an even bigger amount of plastic ending up in a landfill as garbage bags are thicker in gauge, larger in size and without the cut-off (the portion of a shopping bag that is cut off to form the handle), thus using more plastic compared with a regular plastic shopping bag.

“Consumers not only end up having to incur additional cost but actually contribute to even more plastics being sent to the landfill.”

Lim disagrees that substituting plastic bags with degradable or biodegradeable materials is a better option. He says one misconception is that degradation is good and since plastic bags do not degrade, they must be harmful.

He explains that degradation constitutes a breakdown of any organic material whereby the hydrogen and the carbon present in the organic matter, in the presence of oxygen, result in the formation of water and carbon dioxide.

“It is important to note that water mixed with decomposing organic matter will form leachate that can contaminate the groundwater and pollute streams.

“Carbon dioxide has a higher adverse environmental effect as it is a harmful global warming greenhouse gas.

“Even worse is when degradation takes place in the absence of oxygen, which is usually the case in a landfill as organic matter buried under tonnes of rubbish is devoid of oxygen.

“In this case, degradation in the absence of oxygen results in the carbon and hydrogen combining with each other to form methane gas, which is 22 times more harmful than carbon dioxide to the environment.”

Lim also says that saving plastic bags does little in reducing overall waste. He says plastic waste in Malaysia constitutes seven per cent of municipal solid waste and plastic bags less then two per cent.

He adds that plastic bags do not degrade and this is good for the environment as it represents a form of carbon capture without having carbon dioxide or methane being released into the atmosphere.

Striving to break the bag habit

ON Jan 1, the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry launched a nationwide campaign to get all hypermarkets, supermarkets and Petronas petrol stations to stop giving out free plastic bags on Saturdays.

As a result, shoppers now have to pay 20 sen if they want the outlet they visit on Saturdays to give them a plastic shopping bag.

The money collected will be channelled to a special fund to conduct environment preservation and protection-related programmes as well as activities for consumers.

The ministry says the government launched the efforts to reduce waste after its projections showed that Malaysians would create 30,000 tonnes of solid waste daily by 2020.

Selangor had enforced its “No Plastic Bag Day” policy on Saturdays last year. State executive councillor Elizabeth Wong recently said that the policy would include Sundays this year. It was reported in November last year that the number of plastic bags used in Selangor went down by four million.

Penang began enforcing its “No Free Plastic Bags” ruling from Jan 1. It was reported that the Penang Consumer Watch Group in all 40 state constituencies will monitor the daily no plastic bag rule through random checks at several outlets.

Mini-markets and sole proprietorship businesses will have to adhere to the ruling on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

The no plastic bag campaign is also implemented in other states under the municipal councils and city halls.

Last June, the Kota Kinabalu City Hall launched its “No Plastic Bag on Monday”. Proceeds from the sale of plastic bags go to the Environmental Action Centre fund for environmental and cleanliness projects.

Hypermarkets save millions

CARREFOUR Malaysia marketing and communications director Low Ngai Yuen says Carrefour has saved 26 million plastic bags since it kicked off the no plastic bag campaign in 2009.

At the same time, the hypermarket has managed to channel RM180,000 to the Malaysian Nature Society from the sale of plastic bags.

“When we started out, we charged 10 sen per plastic bag, but since August last year, each plastic bag cost 20 sen in line with the nationwide campaign.”

The store in Bangsar South shopping centre has been bag-free since it opened in 2009 and provides only carton boxes for its customers.

The Tropicana City Mall outlet has a no plastic bag day on Mondays, while at Bandar Tun Hussein Onn, eight out of 15 checkout lanes give priority to customers with their own shopping bags.

Yuen says Carrefour aims to achieve zero distribution of plastic bags by next year.

Meanwhile, Bernama recently reported that AEON Co (M) Sdn Bhd, which runs the Jusco Supermarket, “saved” up to 10 million plastic bags since the launch of its no plastic bag campaign in January 2008.

Its general manager (corporate social responsibility and corporate branding), Noryahwati Mohd Noh, says prior to the campaign, AEON gave between 80 and 90 million plastic bags to customers every year.

She said the company was able to collect RM200,000 from the sale of plastic bags last year.

Other retailers taking part in the no plastic bag campain include Tesco Stores, GCH Retail (M) Sdn Bhd and shopping malls Sunway Pyramid and One Utama.

Green initiative wins strong public support

THE no plastic bag campaign should be carried out every day to reduce the use of non-biodegradable material, said Centre for Environment Technology and Development Malaysia chairman Gurmit Singh.

“People should start bringing their own shopping bags and stop using styrofoam containers for takeaways.

“It is a small step but has proven to be effective. Consumers should opt for this idea as it can change their lifestyle by not wasting things.”

In interviews, most consumers agreed with the concept of extending the campaign every day as it will create awareness about saving the environment.

“I take a lot of initiatives in supporting this campaign by recycling and using organic products,” says housewife Nur Sonia Abdullah,47.

According to K.J. Pestana, 71, the issue of garbage disposal is a big problem and the idea of charging customers 20 sen for each plastic bag will help reduce its consumption.

“It hurts our wallet but it is a great way to encourage people to bring their own bags.

“Supermarkets should provide recyclable bags because not everyone will remember to bring their own bags when they go shopping.”

Airene Morrison,45, says it is not easy to drastically reduce plastic use. “However, we are trying our best to support this cause,” she adds.

There are also those who feel that a daily implementation of the policy could be burdensome.

Muslim Consumers Association of Malaysia’s Muhammad Sha’ni Abdullah argues that adopting this practice on a daily basis might be unfair to those with a low income.

At the same time, he says, this campaign is a necessary push for people to adopt sustainable practices.

University student, Khairuldin Izzuddin, 23, says it is not practical to implement such a practice because in the long run, it would not be that effective.

Eco-shop draws crowd

TINY Tapir, a Kuala Lumpur-based company that supports sustainable living, is experiencing a jump in the sales of its reusable bags.

Operations manager Andrew Kit says although the no plastic bag campaign has played a part in getting people to purchase reusable bags, they are also more environmentally conscious due to the many awareness campaigns.

The fact that Tiny Tapir carries reusable bags that are not only fashionable but durable also appeals to green trendsetters.

“We have several ranges of bags available. For example, the Chico bag, is Tiny Tapir’s own brand of bags manufactured in Taiwan. It is made of 100 per cent recycled materials, namely plastic bottles. It takes 12 bottles to make a Chico bag,” he says.

The durability of the bags also makes them versatile for any occasion, whether for casual use or for work and they can carry heavy weights, making them useful for grocery shopping.

Kit expects that Tiny Tapir will experience good sales for its reusable bags this year.


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