Adopt 'shock therapy' to tackle plastic problem

Like Ms Natasha Bipin Doshi, I am concerned that the Government is not doing enough to tackle the indiscriminate use of plastic bags (Saving Earth goes beyond straw bans; Dec 24, 2018).

It appears to be relying on public education, which is still proving to be ineffective after all these years.

However, I disagree with her view that imposing a levy might not be effective.

I just returned from Hong Kong, where I observed that the people appear to be more receptive to using reusable bags for their purchases.

One reason for this might be the levy that many shops impose on plastic bags.

For some reason, my parents preferred using the plastic bags provided to contain some of their purchases, even though they had reusable bags with them.

However, upon learning that there was a plastic bag levy, they switched to reusable bags instead, citing the levy which, to them, superseded their other reasons. So, I do believe that levies can change behaviour.

Of course, a levy should not be the only measure. A reward can also go a long way in encouraging shoppers to go green.

If a levy still proves ineffective, then the Government should consider a plastic bag ban.

It is definitely not impossible, given that many cities have done so.

One example is Bali, which is implementing a ban (Bali bans single-use plastics in bid to cut rubbish in sea; Dec 27, 2018).

Many are also worried that a plastic bag ban might pose a problem for our trash collection, as many of us are accustomed to bagging our rubbish before disposal.

This will not be a cause for concern if we use paid-for rubbish bags instead.

Moreover, if rubbish bags have to be purchased, I believe Singaporeans will learn to maximise the use of those bags by reducing and recycling their trash, instead of disposing of things indiscriminately.

Given the urgency of climate and environment problems, the Government must have the courage to adopt "shock therapy" if small steps have proven futile.

Sean Lim Wei Xin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 03, 2019, with the headline 'Adopt 'shock therapy' to tackle plastic problem'. Print Edition | Subscribe