Drive home the personal impact of excessive plastic bag use

Professor Ivan Png (Charging for plastic bags may have unintended costs; Oct 6) and Mr Phillip Tan Fong Lip (Be prepared for backlash after charging for plastic bags; Oct 27) have both accurately highlighted the unintended consequences that may follow the move to charge for plastic bags.

The fundamental problem is that very few people appreciate the reasons behind the move to reduce the use of plastic bags.

When environmental protection is mentioned, people often visualise activists campaigning only to save the forests or wild animals, which have no bearing on their daily lives.

Most people do not connect environmental protection to the water they drink, the air they breathe and their sources of food - for instance, that fish die after eating plastic bags.

The message that protecting the environment is about protecting ourselves directly must be made clearer and more often, to get people to participate willingly.

It will take a long time for the message to register with the average person.

In the meantime, the solution is perhaps not just to charge for plastic bags, but also to phase out polyethylene plastic bags, and replace them with biodegradable bags.

The latter definitely cost more, but if retailers build the cost into the price of the products they sell, it will not be that significant, spread across many products.

There will also be less resistance from customers than charging them for the bags.

Additionally, the supermarkets which are already selling biodegradable trash bags could place these products in a more prominent place, so that environmentally conscious customers can do their part by buying these bags themselves.

Agnes Sng Hwee Lee (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2017, with the headline 'Drive home the personal impact of excessive plastic bag use'. Subscribe