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Singapore

Large supermarkets to charge minimum 5 cents for each disposable carrier bag

SINGAPORE: Large supermarkets will be required to charge a minimum of 5 cents for each disposable carrier bag from mid-2023, announced Sustainability and the Environment Minister Grace Fu on Monday (Mar 7).

These refer to supermarket operators with an annual turnover of more than S$100 million – such as NTUC FairPrice, Sheng Siong, Prime and Dairy Farm (which operates Cold Storage and Giant supermarkets) – making up about two-thirds of supermarket outlets in Singapore.

The mandatory bag charge will only apply to purchases made at their physical stores and not for online orders.

As for non-carrier disposable bags such as flat top plastic bags for bagging fresh produce as well as meat and seafood, they will not be subject to the mandatory charge.

In a joint press release issued on Monday, the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) said the charge will apply to disposable carrier bags regardless of the material used.

“Whether they are made of paper, plastic or degradable materials, disposables have an impact on the environment during their production, transportation and disposal,” they said.

“In addition, disposable carrier bags used in Singapore are either recycled or incinerated. As they are not landfilled directly, the potential environmental benefits of using biodegradable materials (such as) paper cannot be realised in Singapore.”

The authorities encouraged shoppers to bring their own bags and reduce the excessive use of all types of disposable bags.

They also “strongly encouraged” supermarkets to use the collected proceeds from the bag charges to support charitable programmes or sustainability-related initiatives.

To ensure transparency and discourage profiteering, supermarkets will be required to publish information on the number of bags issued, proceeds received from the bag charge and how they use the proceeds.

Meanwhile, the authorities said supermarket operators with an annual turnover of less than S$100 million may implement their own bag charges, noting that many retailers have already done so.

The decision to implement a bag charge comes after years of public and parliamentary debates on its effectiveness as well as nationwide campaigns aimed at reducing the excessive use of plastic bags and disposables. It also follows recommendations from a citizens’ workgroup, which convened in September 2020, to implement a bag charge.

NEA said it had consulted close to 6,000 stakeholders from the industry and the public, including low-income groups and representatives from the social services sector.

“This comprised public surveys, engagement and focus group sessions, as well as a consultation paper with proposed details of the disposable carrier bag charge for further public feedback between January and February 2022,” said the release.

In deciding the minimum charge, MSE and NEA said it was kept low to moderate the cost impact on shoppers while encouraging them to be mindful of the number of disposable carrier bags they take.

Speaking during her ministry’s Committee of Supply debate in Parliament on Monday, Ms Fu stressed that the bag charge is not a ban.

“By making the cost of the bag visible to consumers, the intent of the bag charge is to nudge people to consider what they really need, instead of taking bags freely,” she said.

“It will not remove the public’s access to disposable bags, it is a nudge to every one of us to develop the habit of bringing a reusable bag when shopping for groceries and more, and to reduce the use of disposables,” she added.

Noting that households require disposable bags for their trash, the authorities said disposable bags will still be available at supermarkets including those used for bagging fresh produce such as fruits and fish, as well as non-supermarket retail outlets and wet markets.

“Residents should continue with the responsible practice of bagging waste before disposal,” they said.

Source: CNA/vl(cy/gs)

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