Charging a fee will not alter customer habits

FairPrice will charge 10 cents or 20 cents per transaction for plastic bags at seven FairPrice and Cheers outlets, and the money will be donated to charity.
FairPrice will charge 10 cents or 20 cents per transaction for plastic bags at seven FairPrice and Cheers outlets, and the money will be donated to charity.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Mr Lee Yong Se correctly highlights the possibility of abuse by customers if the plastic bag charge is applied per transaction (FairPrice's move to cut plastic bag use may backfire, Sept 7), but his suggestion to instead charge 20 cents per plastic bag does not consider the impact on low-income customers, to whom every cent counts.

Since there is another ongoing initiative in which customers can drop unused reusable bags into a donation bin at eight major supermarket outlets (Donation bins for reusable bags placed at 8 supermarket outlets, July 4), why not combine the two and allow customers to freely take these donated bags? Customers can choose to take these bags for free or pay 20 cents per transaction.

I also believe that charging a fee for plastic bags may not be effective in the long run, as customers will become accustomed to this fee as a normal part of the transaction, much like how the goods and services tax has become part of everyday transactions.

It may have a short-term impact as customers make a conscious effort to either take along their own bags or maximise the number of purchases per transaction. But old habits die hard, and soon they will go back to their old ways.

Instead, we should encourage more online grocery shopping, and combine that with making delivery companies pack and deliver the groceries in environmentally friendly ways instead of using plastic bags.

For example, instead of discarding the cartons that their products come in, they can reuse them as containers to pack items for delivery.

Victor S. Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2019, with the headline 'Charging a fee will not alter customer habits'. Print Edition | Subscribe