Less demand when customers have to pay for plastic bags

A customer leaving an NTUC FairPrice supermarket, with a trolley full of groceries that are packed in plastic bags. PHOTO: ST FILE

As supermarket giants continue to grapple with the idea of imposing a plastic bag tax, some retailers here have already taken the plunge - with successful results in reducing the number of bags given out.

In April, Japanese lifestyle brand Miniso imposed a 10 cent charge on customers for every plastic bag they use at its 25 outlets here. In the five months since, plastic bag usage at its outlets has dropped by as much as 75 per cent.

"We used to use more than 200,000 plastic bags per month across all our outlets. It has since dropped to an average of 75,000 plastic bags per month now," said Mr Chong Chee Hwa, general manager of Miniso Singapore, which sells homeware, bags and electronics. He noted that many customers now use their own bags instead of purchasing plastic bags.

In 2012, clothing chain Bossini started charging 10 cents a bag - it led to 80 per cent of its customers deciding they did not need a bag.

Ikea Singapore, the first retailer to impose a plastic bag levy here, has not seen a dent in its popularity as a result of the move to charge for bags. The Swedish furniture giant started charging 10 cents for each bag in 2007 before phasing them out in 2013. Today, shoppers must bring their bags or buy a reusable bag at less than $1. Ikea said more shoppers now bring their own bags or simply carry items away by hand.

Both retailers said most customers have adapted to the change.

Ms Nicole Aw, 27, a bank executive, supports the levy. "The aim of this should be to cultivate the habit of always having a reusable bag which would then lead to overall reduction in usage of plastic bags."

But others are less supportive. "Ten cents still feels too much since we used to get them for free," said Mr Eugene Ho, 26, who runs his own business.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 24, 2017, with the headline Less demand when customers have to pay for plastic bags. Subscribe