Be practical in drive to cut plastic bag use

A man carrying his purchases in plastic bags.
A man carrying his purchases in plastic bags.PHOTO: AFP

I recycle all forms of plastic products, even rinsing them before placing them in a recycling bin. I do not use plastic water bottles or buy bottled water. I also diligently recycle paper products.

But I need plastic bags from supermarkets for my trash and also to bag up the recyclable products before throwing them into the recycling bins.

It is not likely that Singapore can do away with all plastic bags. Most residential properties here are high-rise buildings. Therefore, residents need plastic bags to hold their daily trash before dumping it down rubbish chutes. Even landed property owners need plastic bags to wrap up their trash before they take it to the bins outside their houses.

Paper bags, however sturdy, will tear when wet items are placed in them. Also, with Singapore's temperatures hovering in the 30 deg C to 40 deg C range, food waste placed in paper wrappers will rot and stink within hours.

Despite decades of public education against littering, litter is still found everywhere - tissue paper, cigarette butts, soiled napkins, styrofoam boxes of unfinished food and plastic bottles. So can we be sure that residents will not throw food directly down rubbish chutes if they do not have plastic bags? Are all Singaporeans willing to pay 10 or 20 cents for a plastic bag?

Surely, pests will appear in housing estates if food waste is not bagged up.

Under a month-long trial, supermarket giant FairPrice will charge for plastic bags at some outlets (Plastic bag fee at some FairPrice outlets, Sept 5).

Instead of charging for plastic bags, it may be better for FairPrice to limit the number of free bags to one or two for each purchase, with customers paying for subsequent ones.

We should all do our part to save the world but we must be practical in order to encourage more people to participate in this cause.

Tan Say Yin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2019, with the headline 'Be practical in drive to cut plastic bag use'. Print Edition | Subscribe