'Bribing' people not to use plastic bags won't work

I disagree with the policy of giving discounts and free food for using your own bag, bottle or containers (Discounts and freebies to wean consumers off plastic; Sept 1).

It is simply a short-term "bribe" to attempt to get consumers hooked on the feel-good aspect of not using plastic bags.

It is not a deterrent to using plastic bags and establishes an incorrect motivation for doing so. Rather than doing it to save the environment, people may do it just for the freebies.

When this programme is eventually discontinued, consumers may be even more resistant to hard-line measures like charging for plastic bags.

Singapore should adopt a stiffer deterrence policy from the start and charge for each plastic bag taken.

This would reduce use and ensure that the impact is long term.

Some critics of this approach argue that a levy would be harmful to low-income families, for whom every cent is needed.

To solve this, the money spent on discount programmes now can be diverted to buying reusable bags for these families for long-term use.

Efforts to get people to use fewer plastic bags on a voluntary basis have been less-than-successful so far.

I believe a plastic bag charge would be more successful.

Kim Jin Zhi Yan (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2017, with the headline ''Bribing' people not to use plastic bags won't work'. Print Edition | Subscribe