Forum: Collective responsibility needed to overcome cost of sustainable living

The study mentioned in the article, "Over 1 in 2 won't pay more for sustainable packaging" (Aug 4), suggests that manufacturers need to lower their costs if consumers are to be persuaded to opt for sustainable packaging.

I think the onus should not be placed on manufacturers of sustainable packaging, as many are still at an early stage of growth. They are still investing, innovating and creating new products.

It is our society's collective responsibility to promote the use of sustainable practices because our survival depends on it.

To do so, we need to incentivise consumers by making sustainable packaging relatively more attractive than non-biodegradable products like styrofoam.

While eco-labelling and awareness campaigns will help, the cost will be a key factor for many.

The real cost of non-biodegradable packaging is much higher if we were to impute the environmental impact - be it the cost incurred in dumping them in landfills or polluting our oceans.

Governments are still resisting imposing that additional social impact cost as a tax, which would have made sustainable packaging relatively cheaper.

Another option is to give direct or indirect incentives to manufacturers and sellers of sustainable packaging, including food stall owners, so that they can price it at par or below the cost of non-biodegradable alternatives.

In this context, let us look at the experience of the electric vehicle industry.

Electric vehicles cost way more than fossil fuel powered alternatives. But in countries where government incentives have narrowed the price differential, the demand for electric vehicles is growing faster.

Sustainable living is our society's collective need and responsibility and we need to act fast and decisively.

Singapore has an opportunity to set an example for a model sustainable society - even though we are still a long way away.

Devi Subhakesan

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