Reduce price gap between eco-bags and plastic bags

Germany and Switzerland started curbing the use of plastic bags more than two decades ago, and many countries such as China, India and Kenya are also now taking action on plastic waste.

Since each person in Singapore is estimated to use 13 plastic bags a day, the National Environment Agency's (NEA) push to cut plastic use and wastage should be taken more seriously to combat the damage that disposables do to our environment (Plastic bags targeted as Singapore marks World Environment Day; ST Online, June 5).

If retailers stop issuing single-use plastic items, such as bags, straws and boxes, or deter their consumption by charging for them, we can prevent millions of plastic items from ending up in the trash.

One way to reduce the use of plastic is to use cotton grocery bags.

These are durable, machine-washable and can be easily folded and carried, unlike many other grocery bags, which are big totes with stiff bottoms that are alsomore expensive.

By minimising the gap between the price of an eco-bag and that of its plastic counterpart, the environmental stakeholders' return on investment is achieved from the maximisation of ecological gains, since wiser shoppers will tend to prefer recyclable bags over plastic ones.

In Singapore, supermarket giant FairPrice gives a 10-cent discount to a shopper who uses his own bag, but does not penalise a shopper who opts to use many plastic bags.

Many retailers do not even incentivise ecological practices.

Weekend shoppers stuffing close to 20 plastic bags of goods into their trolleys is a common sight. Such shoppers include domestic helpers, who should be partnered in our battle against plastic pollution.

Plastic disposal is a significant cause for concern as well.

Most recycling bins in Singapore indicate that plastic bottles are acceptable, but do not show that other plastic items, such as salad boxes, are also recyclable.

Many food centres do not have bins to separate used plastic cups from wet waste, although cleaners can sometimes be spotted separating cans and plastic bottles.

These are some areas that both the NEA and Singapore residents can examine so that, perhaps, the landfill on Pulau Semakau can be used for longer.

Grace Chew Chye Lay (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 14, 2018, with the headline 'Reduce price gap between eco-bags and plastic bags'. Print Edition | Subscribe