Kudos For Malaysia’s No Plastic Bag Day Campaign

Posted on February 7, 2011. Filed under: Environmental Policy, Waste |

-Bernama-

By Nooralisa Basiron and Siti Syawana Misni

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 7 (Bernama) — As for the average Malaysian, the plastic bag is indispensable in the shopping routine.

Thus, the plastic bag consumption rate is exceptionally high with the average consumption per individual amounting to eight per week and there are concerns over its safe disposal.

Experts say it may take between 100 and 500 years for the plastic bags to degrade completely and the process emits carbon emissions that contributes to global warming.

It is estimated that Malaysians on average produce 19,000 tonnes of solid waste annually with plastic bags and products representing 24 per cent of the total waste.

ENCOURAGE GREEN TECHNOLOGY

The government has taken numerous efforts to conserve the environment, among others by developing green technology like stated in the 2010 budget.

Awareness activities like greening the surroundings and environmental friendly lifestyle are encouraged, and places like Putrajaya and Cyberjaya are to be benchmarked as Green Technology Towns.

Concurrent with these efforts, the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism has launched the “Use Less Plastic Bags” and “No Plastic Bag Day” to reduce the use of plastic bags.

Starting Jan 1, 2011, on every Saturday plastic bags are no longer provided for free in hypermarkets, supermarkets, departmental stores, convenience shops and selected business premise all over the nation.

For those who still can’t do away with their plastic bag habit, they have to pay 20 sen for each plastic bag.

THE ORIGINS OF NO PLASTIC BAG DAY

The “No Plastic Bag Day” campaign though still new here, it in fact backdates to 2002.

For example, Ireland has been imposing taxes on plastic bags since 2002 and this helped to reduce the plastic bag consumption by 90 per cent.

In the United States, San Francisco also followed suit while Los Angeles effective July 1, 2010 also banned the use of plastic bags and went further by imposing 25 cents for paper bags to encourage consumers to use their own bags when shopping.

In Malaysia, Penang started the ball rolling by launching the “No Plastic Bag Day” campaign on July 6, 2009 in shopping outlets that helped to reduce the plastic bag consumption by one million within four months.

The campaign was then extended to three days a week, every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday effective Jan 1, 2010 and effective Jan 1, 2011 Penang achieved the ultimate “No More Free Plastic Bags Any Day”.

In the Klang Valley, and other areas in Selangor hypermarkets like Tesco, Carrefour, Giant, and smaller outlets like Speedmart, Seven Eleven and others took part in the campaign by not providing free plastic bags every Saturday.

The 20 sen collected for each plastic bag will be channeled to welfare bodies or used for environment or consumer programmes.

ALTERNATIVES TO PLASTIC BAGS

The sincere efforts and unwavering commitment from all parties to the campaign points to a good start in reducing the use of plastic bags and finding alternatives that are environmental friendly.

The Environmental Management and Research Association of Malaysia’s (ENSEARCH) Secretary General, Geetha P. Kumaran noted that the campaign to reduce the use of plastic bags should be followed up with campaigns promoting the use bio-degradable plastics.

“The plastic bags cannot be replaced with paper bags that are costly. Therefore, the fibre bags are the solution,” she said through an e-mail to Bernama.

According to Geetha, still the better solution would be through innovation and green technology.

GOOD INITIATIVE

Based on a survey, 128 of the 170 respondents gave thumbs up for the campaign that is considered as a brilliant effort in conserving the environment.

“As consumers we should be aware on why it is important to take care of the environment by carrying the environmental friendly bags and only use the plastic bags as a last resort. Consumers too should not ask for plastic bags if they are only buying a few things,” noted Nurul Aini Abdullah, a consumer when asked on the use of the plastic bags.

A salesman, Jojo, opined that consumers have to be thought the practice of recycling as it could save the environment from pollution.

On the move by the government to impose 20 sen for each plastic bag, most consumers are favourable as this move will serve as a reminder for them to bring their own bags when shopping.

Geetha also opined that the 20 sen figure should be maintained for all plastic bags in line with the rising prices of food and other necessities.

Nevertheless, there are a few who find the campaign burdensome.

Megat, a trader, was not in favour because consumers would have to face inconvenience especially when buying food.

“Paper bags can be used but they are not durable like the plastic bags. Moreover, paper bags are costly and that is why traders prefer to use the plastic bags,” he said.

“Other inhibiting factors are some department stores and supermarkets don’t allow shoppers to carry in their bags to deter shoplifting, and this is a put off for shoppers,” said a shopper who only wanted to be known as Kamaruddin.

A JOINT RESPONSIBILITY

As for the consumers, the general consensus is that in ensuring the effectiveness of the campaign the government has to continue with the campaign.

Apart from the media publicity, those involved in the campaign have to join hands with the NGOs to create awareness on the campaign especially in the outskirts.

Apart from this, the management of shopping centres should also be more firm and provide wholehearted support for the campaign.

Other effective alternatives to plastic bags should be considered as well in achieving the campaign goals.

So if you are asked to pay 20 sen for a plastic bag after this, think twice. Make it a habit of taking a recyclable bag with you during your shopping routines.

— BERNAMA

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