Think again, Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten) urged the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) yesterday, as he called for a charge to be put on plastic bags. "I don't see why MEWR is so resistant to imposing charges on plastic bags," Mr Lim said.
"When I go overseas and they tell me, you have to pay five cents or 10 cents if you want a plastic bag, the general attitude of most consumers is that they might as well cut all that.
"That helps reduce the use of plastic bags," he told Parliament.
Mr Lim was among three MPs renewing the call to cut down on the use of plastic bags. Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) said the use of plastic bags fell by 80 per cent in Britain after a charge was imposed.
"We're not saying ban or replace plastic bags, but we are calling for a plastic bag charge so that we can reduce the use of plastic bags. I think if we focus on this, then the Say Yes to Waste Less campaign will go a lot faster," he added, referring to a campaign by the National Environment Agency (NEA).
Last October, Mr Ng had proposed in Parliament that consumers be charged for all single-use carrier bags, except for those used to carry fresh produce.
Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) told the House that many of her residents had questioned why Singapore was reluctant to impose a charge. She had filed a parliamentary question on the likelihood of Singapore adopting a ban on single-use plastics, similar to such bans in Britain and Ireland.
In response, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor reiterated the Government's position on the issue. Instead of focusing on plastics alone, the approach is to reduce the excessive consumption of all types of disposables, she said.
As Singapore incinerates all its waste, it does not face the same challenges as countries that rely primarily on landfills, she added.
Most Singaporeans live in high-rise public housing and are used to bagging their rubbish before disposing of it in refuse chutes to maintain good public hygiene, she noted.
"We don't want to undo such efforts. Irresponsible disposal is going to lead to public hygiene issues like pest infestation."
Dr Khor said her ministry and the NEA are closely monitoring developments in other countries on how they manage their disposables.
She also cited a study commissioned by Britain's Environment Agency which estimated that a cotton tote bag would have to be used 173 times before its greenhouse gas emission impact improves beyond that of plastic bags.