NTUC’s plastic bag charge trial ends; 'too early' for meaningful data

NTUC’s plastic bag charge trial ends; 'too early' for meaningful data

ntuc fairprice
File photo of an NTUC FairPrice outlet. (Photo: FairPrice)

SINGAPORE: Shoppers no longer have to pay for plastic bags at seven FairPrice and Cheers outlets, as NTUC FairPrice's month-long trial to charge for plastic bags came to an end on Wednesday (Oct 16). 

A FairPrice spokesman said it is "still too early to provide meaningful data" on the results of the trial and the consumer sentiment study. 

Between Sep 16 and Oct 16, shoppers had to pay 20 cents per transaction at the participating FairPrice, FairPrice Finest and FairPrice Extra stores if they wanted plastic bags for their purchases, and 10 cents per transaction at the Cheers and FairPrice Xpress outlets. 

The proceeds were donated to the Singapore Children's Society and The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund. 

Adding that more updates will be available next month, the spokesman said: "We will study and analyse the survey findings, along with customer feedback, to develop a well-informed and sustainable action plan to reduce plastic bag use." 

Manager of Zero Waste SG, Pek Hai Lin told CNA that volunteers who were on the ground at participating outlets to help inform people about the initiative  observed that about 50 per cent of shoppers brought their own bags over time.  

Zero Waste SG collaborated with NTUC on the trial.

"Even though there were some comments that reflected that some people were unhappy with the charge, most of the comments and responses showed that people were receptive to it," she said. 

"From preliminary observations, this shows that the charge translates to effective behavioural change in reducing the demand for plastic bags." 

Reactions from customers were mixed when the trial launched in September. Some believed the cost was too low to make an impact on shoppers' behaviour, and others questioned why the charge was implemented on a per-transaction basis. 

Ms Pek hopes NTUC FairPrice will upscale the initiative, and that other supermarkets will adopt a similar approach as well. 

"Also if they charge per bag instead of per transaction, this will definitely have a bigger impact on the change in demand for plastic bags," she added. 

Amid calls from environmentalists and members of parliament to explore a plastic bag charge, the month-long trial was implemented because the supermarket chain thought it was "the right time for (it) to do something different", said CEO Seah Kian Peng at the launch in September. 

"At the end of this one month, we will put all this together and see how we should rework ... or come up with a new scheme that we can then implement across the island," he said. 

Ms Pek stressed that even though Singaporeans need plastic bags to bag their trash, that does not mean retailers cannot charge for plastic bags, citing South Korea and the United Kingdom as examples where there are plastic bag charges although residents use them to bag waste. 

"Even if we don't need to buy plastic bags and there is seemingly no cost for us, there is obviously an externality cost for all of us. With a charge, this cost is transferred to the user," she said. 

"The idea is that if the resource is not free, people will not take it for granted, or use plastic bags flippantly." 

Source: CNA/hw(db)

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