Stop establishments from providing disposables

Plastic spoons and chopsticks at a hawker centre.
Plastic spoons and chopsticks at a hawker centre.PHOTO: SHIN MIN DAILY NEWS

I strongly support the nationwide push for reduced usage of plastic disposables and the promotion of reusable items in their place (Nationwide push to reduce disposables, encourage reusables, June 9).

The rampant misapplication of cheap and durable plastic for "throwaway" applications has created an ecological disaster, and the need for urgent action is abundantly clear.

The question remains, however, if the onus for sustainable practices lies primarily with consumers and their habits, or with producers and the choices they offer.

While much has been done to ameliorate the former side of the equation - educating the general populace on the environmental impact of consumption, and encouraging individuals to make the switch to reusables - the latter side remains conspicuously under-addressed.

It is heartening that 59 organisations have joined the National Environment Agency campaign to provide reusables for paying customers, but relying purely on the initiative and good conscience of for-profit corporations will only get our society so far.

Perhaps it is time to tackle the problem of disposables from a supply-side standpoint.

Some may recall that before the advent of plastic utensils, hawker stalls and fast food eateries would provide porcelain or stainless steel crockery, which was collected, washed, and then reused. We should compel establishments to revert to this tried and tested system.

The associated capital and labour costs, as well as the amount of water needed, arguably pale in comparison to the net environmental costs of plastic production and the resource-intensive task of recycling them.

Another area of improvement might be plastic bottles, whose flimsy construction encourages both mass production and mass disposal. Mandating thicker-walled and more resilient plastic containers might encourage more selective application among producers, and incentivise reuse among consumers.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi