Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Is it Difficult to Say “NO” to Plastic Bags?

While the awareness on ‘say no to plastic bags’ are on the rise, there is still so much to be done. Every year, an estimated 4 billion plastic bags end up as litter in worldwide. These plastic bags are not biodegradable and therefore, they will remain for up to 1000 years before it could be properly decomposed.

One can easily find in any supermarkets and shopping malls reusable bags to replace plastic bags. In one shopping mall, one can expect to pay for the plastic bags they need to put their purchased items. This is done to save on plastic bags and encourage consumers to bring their own reusable bags. I don’t see much complaint on this implementation if everyone cooperates. I remember that when I was young, open burning is a normal practice in the neighbourhood in the evenings to repel the mosquitoes without knowing the consequences and it is harmful to the environment. Today, the awareness to love the environment increases among the younger generation but to older generation, there is still the perception that nothing is wrong with open burning and that that little burning would not do much harm to the environment.

In Malaysia, no laws are yet to be imposed on those who abuse the usage of plastic bags. On the other hand, no rewards are given to those who use reusable bags instead of plastic bags. Malaysians have the tendency to use plastic bags as garbage bags to dispose their rubbish. There was once where I saw a lady using her reusable bag to store her groceries but during check out at the counter, she took a handful of plastic bags and put it in her reusable bag. She then said, “This is perfect to contain my rubbish at home. I am running out of plastic bags”. This makes me wonder on how successful is the 3R (Reduce, Reuse and Recycling) campaign. The people are not being properly educated on the meaning of reducing usage on plastic bags and the implication of it. The people just grab the plastic bags at their convenience since it is so light and easy to store.

Maybe the time has come for the government to impose some rules to consumers and it could start from supermarket where plastic bags are most used in Malaysia. In Ireland, the Irish government passed a plastic bag tax in year 2002 and it was followed by some advertising awareness campaign. Within weeks, it showed results of 94 percent drop in plastic bag use and within a year, almost everyone bought reusable bags and brought them to buy groceries. A plastic bag in Ireland costs 22 euro cents (RM1.00) and Irish rarely buy plastic bags. Maybe the government should start considering imposing plastic bag tax in the near future, thus reducing pollution to earth in mind.

Having said that, there are still many people out there who are not aware of the types of waste they generate in their home that can cause tremendous haze to the environment. With the hectic lifestyle in urban areas, there is reduction in organic and kitchen waste but increase in mixed plastics and paper waste due to the packaging materials. City folks are too busy to cook; hence, the easy way out is to buy packed food or takeaway. The packaging for packed food and take away generates a lot of plastics and paper waste. With the amount of plastic bags generated, it could fill one’s home in no time. An average Malaysian generates about 1kg per day of solid waste. This mountain of solid waste, in time to come, will be a great disposal problem. The only way out is for city folks to change their lifestyle and eat in more often rather than eat out. They could also use their own tupperware to store food rather than using plastic bags.

With the ongoing campaigns in shopping malls and some NGOs as well as the government, I hope that the rakyat could be more aware of their litters and the amount of plastic bags they produce each day and make a difference to it by reducing or saying no to plastic bags.


I swear said...

Yes. It is very difficult if there are lots of puchases. If 1 item, no need plastic bag. Imagine you go to hypermarket and fill up the whole trolley. No plastic bags. You gotta be kidding.

Pearls said...

Yes la, we all try not to use plastic bags la... but how to bag rubbish without using plastic bag??

I recycle whatever I can.. fruit peels and anything that is organic except for meat is dump into a big tong to make compose, leftover meat is used to feed stray cats but there are still a lot of other waste. How about oil that has been used a few times? You know, oil in deep fryer that was used to fry fish or whatever. I usually throw such oil away after 5 round of frying. What do you with it? I remember amusing my little girl by turning such oil into soap but seriously, how often can you do it? It is quite tedious you know.

So, can someone please tell me how to bag my rubbish without using a plastic bag? Perhaps a better alternative is to get retailers to follow Ikea's footstep in providing bio-degradeable plastic bags?

Unknown said...

Suggest if the government to ban the use of normal plastic bag and replace with only bio-degradeable plastic bags. Can that be done? said...

agree, agree, agree, how to dispose the rubbish properly without plastic bag?

Unknown said...

The plastic bag issue has to come from both sides - the user and the people or places that give them out.

1. Charge extra if the end user wants a plastic bag. At the same time, provide an alternative - a recylable bag, or sell cloth bags at a fair price.
For ppl with a trolley full - use a plastic crate. Also made out of recycled plastic, it can hold up to half of the contents of a normal trolley. You got a full trolley? Use two crates. You got items meant for deep freeze? Use a recycled keep cool bag. When I do grocery shopping, I bring a plastic crate and two large recycled bags. Be creative when it comes to bagging groceries!

2. Wheelie bins are mostly made out of recyclable plastic. Each household should have one. The wheelie bin usually consists of 2 compartments - one for normal rubbish, the other for organic matter (plant matter, plant cuttings). Food leftovers still need to go into the normal rubbish side to avoid a pest problem.

3. The Plastic Recycle bin for a neighbourhood. This bin is meant for plastic drink bottles (empty), (clean)plastic bags,empty plastic containers,plastic pots etc. A sign posted on the bin dictates what is allowed/not allowed.

The biggest obstacle is changing the mentality. When the paper recycling bins campaign started and were placed at supermarket entrances, people chucked in normal rubbish into this paper recycling bin.
How do you educate a society that does not care and does not bother to read the "Paper only" sign?

Terrassie Lau - the Rising Phoenix said...

Yes, say no to plastic bags. I am in bio degradable plastic bags business made from starch, corn and rice base. And these are made in Malaysia. It will disintegrate in 18 months and will turn into powder which you can use them as fertiliser for your plants. Very safe amd reliable, and can withstand a certain degree of heat. So you can taupau your favourite beehoon soup and is certainly more safer than those PE plastic ones.

Pearls said...

Terrassie Lau,

Where can we get your plastic bags? How much are these plastic bags selling for? I am keen to get some of your plastic bags.

Unknown said...

Dear Dr Chua,

It is interesting to read the feedback from Terrassie Lau's business in selling bio degradable plastic bags business made from starch, corn and rice base. And these are made in Malaysia.

Yes, it is timely and golden opportunities to create awareness among all Malaysians and govt where I can earn millions by promoting and selling such bio plastic bags. The price must be cheap and affordable to gain demand and increase supply chain here. It is a good biz venture to gain more income since technical recession is around in Malaysia.

Unfortunately, many Malaysians are sad to know the "tidak apa" attitudes of the public and the poor enforcement of corrupted civil servants in their failure to enforce the law on plastic dumping in Malaysia. However, the BN goons are still gaining lucrative billions profit from their contracts with many Waste Management Companies imposed strict mandatory to keep all rubbish inside a plastic bag before their workers willig to collect.

In short, BN govt never "walk the talk" on this matter as compared with DAP - CAT decision to reduce plastic usage in Penang.

rahsia said...

but i always see you guys drinking from bottled mineral water...hipokrit...

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