How S'pore is tackling plastic bag problem

We thank Mr Eddie Lee Wai Seng for his letter (Focus on plastic waste too; Aug 10).

The Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources and the National Environment Agency (NEA) adopt various strategies to reduce waste generation and encourage recycling.

Our efforts focus on three waste streams - food waste, e-waste and packaging waste, which includes single-use plastics.

There have been calls for a plastic bag charge or even a total ban on single-use plastic bags in Singapore. But our view is that encouraging households to use fewer plastic bags is more practical.

Many households reuse plastic bags to dispose of their household refuse in a hygienic manner.

Household refuse in Singapore, including plastic bags, is incinerated rather than landfilled directly. This averts many environmental problems associated with plastic bags, such as marine litter or landfill pollution.

A recent NEA life-cycle assessment study found that alternatives to plastic bags, which include paper bags and biodegradable bags, also have negative environmental impacts.

For example, the production of such bags may consume more water or result in deforestation.

Substituting plastics with these alternatives may not lead to better environmental outcomes.

Our approach is therefore focused on reducing the overall use of single-use plastics and packaging.

We are studying regulatory measures to minimise plastic waste from the onset, and recently announced that the implementation of mandatory reporting of packaging data and reduction plans will be brought forward to 2020.

We are also working with manufacturers to see how single-use packaging and plastics can be reduced.

Individuals can also make a positive difference by consciously choosing to use fewer plastic bags, using reusables instead of disposables, recycling plastic waste, and choosing products with reduced packaging.

We welcome ideas from passionate individuals like Mr Lee on how we can further encourage businesses and consumers to reduce, reuse and recycle.

Ng Chun Pin

Director, Environmental Policy Division

Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 16, 2018, with the headline 'How S'pore is tackling plastic bag problem'. Print Edition | Subscribe