KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's Federal Territories have banned the use of plastic shopping bags from Friday, affecting thousands of supermarkets and traders at wet markets, who will now have to offer consumers higher-priced biodegradable bags.
The Federal Territories - comprising capital city Kuala Lumpur, the administrative capital of Putrajaya and offshore financial centre Labuan - join Selangor, which banned petroleum-based plastic bags and polystyrene food containers in January to help the environment.
The government will conduct spot checks to ensure the ruling is complied with.
Officials say regular plastic containers like polystyrene take about 500 years to degrade, raising the cost of waste management because Malaysia's rubbish landfills cannot be reused quickly and new ones must be opened up every few years.
And those materials that are thrown away clog up drains and rivers.
The government is promoting the use of biodegradable and compostable plastic bags and food containers that degrade in about six months.
The ban will push up costs for traders and supermarkets, which have been told by the government to absorb the cost of these biodegradable materials when consumers buy goods from them.
For example, 100 pieces of medium petroleum-based plastic bags cost only RM5 (S$1.60), and RM15 for the biodegradable version.
Federal Territories Ministry secretary-general Adnan Md Ikhsan said regular plastic bags can still be used in some places.
"In a supermarket or hypermarket, petroleum-based plastic bags may still be used to pack meat, fruits and vegetables, but biodegradable plastic bags must be used at the check-out counters."
He added: "We have engaged business owners since June 2016, the last being this August to explain the initiative. There should be no more excuses."
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK