Plastic bag charge 'not a small step for Singapore': FairPrice Group CEO

Plastic bag charge 'not a small step for Singapore': FairPrice Group CEO

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FairPrice Finest at Paya Lebar Quarter is one of 25 outlets participating in the year-long plastic bag charge. (Photo: Ang Hwee Min) 

SINGAPORE: Rolling out a per-transaction plastic bag charge to 25 outlets “really is not a small step for Singapore”, said CEO of FairPrice Group Seah Kian Peng on Monday (Nov 11).

Shoppers will be charged for plastic bags at 25 NTUC FairPrice-owned outlets for a year from today, an extension of an earlier month-long trial

Plastic bags will be available at participating outlets at S$0.20 per transaction at FairPrice supermarkets and S$0.10 per transaction at FairPrice Xpress and Cheers convenience stores. The seven stores involved in the earlier trial are also part of the year-long trial. 

READ: Plastic bag charge trial extended for one year to 25 FairPrice stores

READ: Companies going green - Sustainability strategies that also make good business sense

“This is a very significant move. I think it is,” he added, speaking to reporters at the FairPrice Finest in Paya Lebar Quarter, about the decision to increase the number of participating outlets from seven to 25.

When asked about whether NTUC FairPrice would consider extending the plastic bag charge to more, or all stores islandwide, he said: “Changing behaviour takes time, we recognise that too. We are pushing the agenda, pushing the envelope, we are stepping up the pace. 

“That’s why there are more stores now, and these are not small stores, these are stores which are located in the heartlands, big stores.” 

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Signs at check out counters at the 25 participating outlets remind shoppers about the plastic bag charge. (Photo: Ang Hwee Min)

The one month trial in September concluded with most customers supportive of the plastic bag charge, said Mr Seah. 

According to NTUC FairPrice, 71.1 per cent of the 1,745 customers surveyed expressed support for a plastic bag charge at supermarkets in the consumer sentiment study conducted at the seven outlets during the month-long trial. 

Mr Seah also acknowledged that while there are customers who believe the charge should be much higher and per bag instead of per transaction, there is also “a much smaller group who needs more convincing”. 

Describing the two groups as “two extreme ends” he added: “I don’t think we should go either extreme. I think what we have done is a calibrated approach, and I think so far from the pilot results, it seems to have struck a chord. There is a fair balance between the two extreme ends.” 

COMMENTARY: Why some plastic packaging is necessary

While charging on a per bag basis would cost the individual more, charging consumers on a per transaction basis would be “administratively easy for all”, said Mr Seah. 

With the year-long extension, there are also reusable bag donation stations in 12 participating FairPrice outlets, where shoppers can donate clean reusable bags they do not use, or take them free-of-charge if they forget to bring one along. 

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Shoppers can also donate clean reusable bags, or take them home if they forget to bring their own bag, at 12 of the participating FairPrice outlets. (Photo: Ang Hwee Min)

“One year from now I hope we don’t have to talk about why we have to encourage more people (to reduce their use of plastic bags),” said Mr Seah, adding that he hopes to see more than half of corporates and retailers in Singapore implementing similar measures by next year. 

COMMENTARY: We are on the cusp of a plastic recycling revolution

Stressing that companies are in a position to effect change, Mr Seah said that reducing plastic waste is a “multi-stakeholder journey” that “needs to take place over a sustained period of time”, with individuals and corporates sharing the responsibility. 
 
He also acknowledged that plastic bag use is “just one part” of sustainable behaviour, and noted that NTUC FairPrice also works internally to reduce plastic packaging waste and food waste. 

“We cannot ask consumers to be the only ones (reducing plastic waste), I think corporates also need to play a part. We are all in it together.” 

He asked of companies: “What are they waiting for?” 

Source: CNA/hw

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