Boycott call comes as haze returns

Last October, Asia Pulp and Paper-related products were taken off shelves after the SEC temporarily suspended the Green Label of APP's exclusive distributor, Universal Sovereign Trading. APP and four firms were under probe over possible links to fire
Last October, Asia Pulp and Paper-related products were taken off shelves after the SEC temporarily suspended the Green Label of APP's exclusive distributor, Universal Sovereign Trading. APP and four firms were under probe over possible links to fires in Indonesia.ST FILE PHOTO

Consumers urged to go for Green Label and shun products of slash-and-burn culprits

As the haze returns, consumers are being urged not to support firms whose products are made using irresponsible methods of clearing land that might cause forest fires.

And with more products being certified eco-friendly under the Singapore Green Labelling Scheme (SGLS), consumers have a greater range of green choices.

"Since the haze episode last year, we have seen an increase of 90 new companies coming on board the SGLS with 10 per cent more products in the paper, pulp and wood category," said Mr Chong Khai Sin, lead environmental engineer and head of eco-certifications at the Singapore Environment Council (SEC). In a joint statement on Tuesday, the SEC and the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) repeated their call for consumers - both individuals and businesses - to buy sustainably produced products.

"We are disappointed that the haze problem has returned again this year," said the organisations. "This haze represents the growing demand for both paper as well as palm oil products."

In its daily haze advisory yesterday, the National Environment Agency noted that air quality was in the Good to Moderate range but "slightly hazy conditions" can be expected over the weekend if fires emerge in Sumatra and the situation deteriorates.

The SEC and Case called for businesses to boycott products produced through slash-and-burn methods, and for consumers to buy paper and palm oil products only from sustainable sources.

Consumer products on the "white list" carry a Green Label.

Overall, the Green Labelling Scheme represents more than 3,000 products from 500 companies. These include paper products from established brands, such as Scott toilet paper, FairPrice tissue paper, and printing paper from PaperOne.

There are also products from smaller local firms, such as Gooodlife toilet roll from Tipex and Prefer tissue paper from Scanpap (Asia Pacific). The full list can be found on the Green Label website.

In April, the SEC announced a new "SGLS Plus" category, which focuses on pulp and paper manufacturers and mill operators. This category will look at additional aspects such as a firm's fire mitigation and management practices, management of peatlands, commitment to zero burning, and site surveillance. More details on SGLS Plus will be announced at a later stage, said the SEC.

Singapore Paper Merchants Association vice-president Chua Kee Teang noted that many firms - including his own, Mukim Fine Papers - are committed to the scheme and have Green Label-certified products.

But for smaller firms, the cost of certification could be a barrier, he said. Per product, a new Green Label application costs $1,500 and each annual renewal costs $1,000.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2016, with the headline 'Boycott call comes as haze returns'. Print Edition | Subscribe