Impose levy on use of plastic bags

The special report on plastic waste stated that the National Environment Agency collected about 920 tonnes of plastic waste from our rivers and canals last year ("S'pore recycled 9% of plastic waste in 2014"; March 8).

This figure does not even include the plastic waste disposed at landfills, which should be much greater in quantity.

We must take steps to reduce the use of plastic bags. Plastic bags can take more than 1,000 years to decompose and will remain toxic after they break down.

One of most effective ways to reduce plastic waste is to ban the distribution of free plastic bags in supermarkets, convenience stores, pharmacies and department stores.

A levy should be imposed on the distribution of plastic bags.

In 2009, Hong Kong faced an imminent waste problem. It was estimated that more than eight billion plastic bags were disposed of at landfills every year. It then imposed a levy of 50 Hong Kong cents (10 Singapore cents) per plastic bag.

This levy drastically reduced the number of plastic bags distributed.

According to the Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department, before this levy was implemented, supermarkets, convenience stores, pharmacies and cosmetics stores in Hong Kong were distributing about 660 million plastic bags yearly.

After one year, this number was drastically reduced to 150 million plastic bags.

The levy has been so successful that the Hong Kong government last year implemented a total ban on the distribution of free plastic bags for all retail outlets.

Nowadays, Hong Kong residents take along their own reusable bags with them when they go shopping.

China, Taiwan and the Philippines implemented the levy for plastic bags even earlier. In Germany, very few people use plastic bags as paper bags are more environmentally friendly.

Likewise, in Singapore, we should discourage the indiscriminate use of plastic bags by imposing a plastic bag levy.

Initially, it may cause inconvenience but it is a small price to pay to save our precious environment.

David Kong