Singapore uses at least 1.76 billion plastic items a year, or almost one item per person per day. But fewer than 20 per cent of these are recycled, according to the Singapore Environment Council (SEC).
The bulk of these items are plastic bags taken from supermarkets, according to an online survey it did from last December to May this year.
The non-government organisation yesterday said the poll of more than 1,000 people found that 820 million plastic bags are taken yearly from supermarkets.
Only 2 per cent are recycled by consumers. Two-thirds are used for the disposal of waste.
It also found women are almost twice as likely to take a reusable bag to the supermarket as men, and those aged 41 and older are most likely to take at least six plastic bags from the supermarket on each shopping trip.
The survey, done with the help of global consultancy Deloitte, also found that Singapore used 467 million polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles - like those that hold soft drinks - and 473 million plastic disposable items like takeaway containers a year.
The survey did not include plastic bags given out by establishments other than supermarkets.
The Singapore Environment Council noted that Singapore's plastic recycling rate lags far behind those of other developed countries. The country recycled only 6 per cent of its plastic waste last year, said the National Environment Agency. In contrast, the rate in Europe is around 30 per cent.
SEC executive director Jen Teo said the council's estimate is conservative when compared with previous estimates of each person in Singapore throwing away 13 plastic bags a day.
She explained: "We wanted to focus on the most easily measurable usage."
In March this year, a survey of 2,000 people by the World Wide Fund for Nature Singapore found 80 per cent would support a plastic bag levy.
Its spokesman said yesterday: "There's still a huge dark hole when it comes to the plastic bags given out by other retailers. They aren't only supermarkets, but also bubble tea shops or bakeries that give multiple plastic bags."
Deloitte's sustainability leader in South-east Asia Mohit Grover said: "We will see how we can incorporate this into future studies."
The SEC intends to launch a campaign this month to educate people to use fewer plastic items. It will team up with businesses such as FairPrice and Coca-Cola.
The campaign could involve, among other things, cashiers being trained to pack groceries more efficiently and customers being educated in using fewer plastic bags.
The SEC noted that Singapore's plastic recycling rate lags far behind those of other developed countries.
The country recycled only 6 per cent of its plastic waste last year, said the National Environment Agency (NEA).
In contrast, the rate in Europe is around 30 per cent.
To help improve the situation, SEC urges everyone in Singapore to use one fewer plastic item each day. "We intend to encourage shoppers to use not more than two plastic bags per trip, " Ms Teo said.
An NEA spokesman noted that SEC's surveyrefers to the number of items consumers use while NEA's data is the overall weight of plastic waste generated or disposed of.
But NEA supports SEC's efforts to raise awareness of the trade-offs of plastic use, "and will explore how we can support its campaigns to effect positive change", the spokesman added.