SINGAPORE: A plastic bag charge could have "unintended consequences", such as the substitution of these bags with paper bags or even wastage of reusable bags, Senior Minister of State for Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor told Parliament on Wednesday (Nov 9).
Sufficient educational and enforcement measures also need to be in place to complement a charge and reduce shoppers' demand for plastic bags, she said.
Ms Khor was responding to MP for Nee Soon GRC Louis Ng’s question on whether the Government would consider imposing a charge on plastic bags at supermarkets.
Earlier, Channel NewsAsia reported that local environmental group ZeroWasteSG had called for a plastic bag charge in Singapore. The group had conducted a survey which found that only about 15 per cent of shoppers were using reusable bags or trolleys without taking plastic bags.
Ms Khor commended the environmental group’s efforts in raising awareness on the need to curb the excessive use of plastic bags, and added that the ministry and the National Environment Agency (NEA) are looking into the survey results.
“Even though Singapore manages the disposal of plastic bags well, there is room for us to cut down on excessive usage,” she said, adding that the Government is engaging supermarket operators to explore ways to do so.
“I am heartened by recent media reports that major supermarket players in Singapore are open to considering measures to reduce plastic bag usage, such as a voluntary charge on plastic bags if imposed across the industry,” she added.
Singapore has a different way of handing plastic bag waste compared to other countries, said Ms Khor. In Singapore, plastic bag waste is incinerated before they are transported to the landfill, whereas in other countries, such waste is disposed of in landfills without incineration.
“In these countries, plastic bags, which are not biodegradable, may remain in landfills for a long time or find their way into the sea,” she said.
The NEA has published a tender to study the different types of single-use carriers and how they compare in terms of cost and impact on the environment, said Ms Khor, adding that the results will help in formulating any future policies on the use of different types of bags.
Ultimately, the excessive use of plastic bags could only be curbed with the support and participation of the community and retailers, Ms Khor said.
“Shoppers can play their part by taking just enough plastic bags for their needs and reusing them for bagging household refuse. They can also utilise reusable bags as much as possible,” she said.