Do we need that plastic bag? [News]

April 28, 2012 by  
Filed under News

By Grace Chua, The Straits Times, 28 Apr 2012.

A few days ago, I found myself in the curious position of having no plastic bags left in the house, and needing to take out the trash.

That meant going to the supermarket and buying something that I was going to buy anyway, like a bunch of bananas, in order to get a bag to line my bin with.

Earlier this week, the Singapore Environment Council proposed that supermarkets, food outlets and provision shops start charging for plastic bags.

A flurry of letters to the press ensued, some arguing this would be too much of a burden, others calling it too little.

Like many others, I have a love-hate relationship with plastic bags.

Making and distributing them takes fossil fuels, and they do not break down in landfills or the ocean. A plastic bag, fluttering vacantly in the wind, is an easily demonised symbol for fossil fuel and resource consumption.

Click here to read the full story.

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6 Responses to “Do we need that plastic bag? [News]”
  1. Great article. Thank you, Eugene. Yes, this is a tricky issue. Here in Australia, some supermarket chains started to put a 10c price on plastic carry-bags. But it was found that the sales of (plastic!) packets of thicker plastic garbage bags increased dramatically to compensate! However, most Australians have embraced the sturdy multi-usable (at least!) Poly Propylene carry bags that we can buy from supermarkets for around $1 (we tend to use them to carry EVERYthing and keep them in the boot of the car!); and the original, lighter 100% degradable plastic carry bags are still available behind the counter, mostly without fee now.

  2. Sajit says:

    During my stay in Australia for 2 years, i hardly used any plastic bags. Initially, i felt like why bother carry a bag all the way when i can get the bags at coles/woolies(Supermarket) after i shop. With my Singaporean brought up background, i found carrying a HDPE bag even quite ‘auntie-like’. Later I realized the methods from oldies are really goldies. The bag is actually quite big and easily folded and kept away. 4 of those are more than sufficient to a med-size family. I am glad that i switched to the eco-friendly method fast enough and knowing time it’s saving our earth. Just calculate how many plastic bags are used by person over a year! it’s crazy!!

  3. Marjolein Moreaux says:

    @ Eugene! Super-article, thanks!
    My family and I moved to Singapore one year ago and the over-use of plastic bags struck us immediately! Having lived in Belgium (where you pay for your plastic bags or you use the thick re-usable bags) and in Africa (where people reuse and reuse EVERY bag 3-4 times before they throw it), we were absolutely shocked.
    With the existing trashing system in the apartment blocks in Singapore, I guess some use of plastic bags is necessary in this hot and humid city. You don’t want pests to invade such a densely populated city. And as you show in your article, the thin plastics remain the best ones in that case. But why pack only one item per bag, or use three bags for a liter of milk, or pack a toothbrush in a small bag which then goes in the large bag, or put a box of mints in a bag while you are carrying your handbag? The worst I experienced not long ago is that I invested about an hour making sure all my goods for home delivery were packed in boxes (Giant). By the time the goods arrived at home, they had all been repacked in huge plastic bags that cannot even be used at home for garbage!!
    Education has to tackle both the packers in the shop AND the end-users:
    1) they have to ask whether the client needs a bag (I always have to UNpack my items and give the bag back if I haven’t paid attention) and pack more economically (who cares that the rice is packed together with toothpaste?)
    2) we have to dare to give our excessive bags back and educate the packers at the grocery store.
    Very often on the streets/in the parks of Singapore you see plastic bags that were not re-used. So stop claiming that all the 400 billion plastic bags were re-used in Singapore!

  4. Swati says:

    Hi Marjolin,

    Absolutely agree! The number of bags used here is definitely more than what is required or recycled at home.

    The biggest culprits are chains like NTUC and GIANT. Stand in a queue over the weekend and what irks me is that noone is carrying a recyclable bag! Trolleys are packed to the brim with plastic! These places really do need to start charing for bags. PLease push them to do so.

  5. Beverly says:

    Why charge the consumers for plastic bags if there are technological solutions that will solve the problem? There are a number of business manufacturing BIODEGRADABLE BAGS that resembles the features of a plastic. These bags are processed with the use of plants like tapioca and is 100% biodegradable. Charging consumers is not the solution. No matter how much these supermarkets charge, people will still pay for plastic bags because we need it. Is there much of a change? In my opinion, Banning plastic bag made of a non-biodegradable material is the real solution here.

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