Reducing our dependency on plastic

Mr Yan Aik Teck highlighted how environmental sustainability is becoming more prominent in our formal education ("Education paves the way for sustainable future"; Nov 10).

This is a step in the right direction to ensure that we understand the current negative impact we have on our environment.

However, it would be insufficient to merely focus on raising awareness. Ultimately, sustainability calls for changes in our behaviour towards the environment as well.

Sadly, this connection is lacking and it is something we Singaporeans still need to improve on.

For example, most of us would be aware of the various campaigns to reduce plastic waste in Singapore, such as the National Recycling Programme or the Bring Your Own Bag scheme undertaken by some supermarkets.

We are told that plastics are not biodegradable, are harmful towards marine wildlife and place stress on our limited landfill.

Yet, Singapore's recycling rate for plastics remains at a low 9 per cent.

This figure pales in comparison with nations like Japan, which boasts a plastic recycling rate of 77 per cent.

In 2014, the National Environment Agency published a report indicating that 789,000 tonnes of plastic were disposed of in that year alone, the material being the largest contributing component of waste sent to our landfill.

Our dependency on plastics has to be reduced. We can start with the most common plastic we encounter daily: plastic bags.

Some Singaporeans have defended their use of plastic bags when making purchases as they reuse them to pack and dispose of their household waste in a hygienic manner.

However, a 2013 survey by the Singapore Environment Council found that 60.3 per cent of respondents who stored plastic bags at home were storing more than necessary for waste disposal.

In other words, we can really afford to use fewer plastic bags.

Using reusable bags is one way to begin dealing with this situation.

Less effort is needed to find such bags in Singapore as they can be obtained in common places such as supermarkets.

One is likely to have received a reusable bag as a door gift or souvenir.

It is simple enough to take one along when leaving the house.

This would eliminate the need for businesses to provide a disposable bag, thus contributing meaningfully to our plastic waste situation. 

Muhamad Ashsiddique Mohamed Omrul Hauk