Forum: Cutting plastic use: Retailers should make the move

Customers pack their goods at NTUC Fairprice at Toa Payoh Hub on Oct 28, 2019.
Customers pack their goods at NTUC Fairprice at Toa Payoh Hub on Oct 28, 2019.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

I am against paying twice for plastic bags at supermarkets when alternatives are available (FairPrice overusing plastic packaging for produce, Nov 22).

Factoring carrier bag costs into merchandise prices is already intrinsic to retail business. Even the smallest packet of kacang putih is priced with the cost of bagging in mind.

Before they switched to plastic bags, supermarkets used paper bags and Kraft carriers. Indeed, plastic was actually a solution to the environmental damage caused by mass deforestation to get materials to make paper packaging.

Instead of switching back to paper, retailers are now charging customers for plastic bags.

Meanwhile, food and beverage (F&B) outlets charge customers extra for takeaway containers.

What is stopping retailers from switching to sustainable paper-based and biodegradable alternatives?

It is difficult for retailers to convince the public to be aware of the environmental damage caused by plastic waste when FairPrice, the largest supermarket chain here, continues to use non-degradable plastic containers and bags while advocating reusable bags.

I remain unconvinced by FairPrice's recent explanation that it needs to use plastic for hygiene reasons, while customers buy more than what they need in the form of pre-packed produce.

If changes are needed for the sake of the environment, it is the supermarket and F&B sectors, not customers, that should make those changes.

FairPrice should lead the charge by declaring its sincere intent to protect the environment, and walk the talk by switching to paper bags or biodegradables.

The retail industry should make shopping a pleasant experience instead of turning it into a dull chore, where every time one leaves the house, one must carry not only a shopping list, but also shopping carriers.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2019, with the headline 'Cutting plastic use: Retailers should make the move'. Print Edition | Subscribe