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NEA seeks public feedback on proposal for supermarkets to charge for plastic bags from next year

A charge of 5 to 10 cents for each plastic bag was among the suggestions.

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) is seeking public feedback on plans for supermarkets to charge consumers for plastic bags, including a proposal for it to be implemented in the first half of next year.

People can provide their views from Thursday (Jan 27) on the proposal to charge per bag, a minimum charge of 5 to 10 cents per bag and whether it should apply to online orders.

"Charging per bag is an equitable and effective charging model, as the amount paid will be proportional to the number of disposable carrier bags taken," said NEA in its consultation paper on the REACH portal.

On the proposed charge of 5 to 10 cents, NEA said: "Such a nudge strikes a balance between encouraging shoppers to reduce the number of disposable carrier bags they take and minimising the cost impact on shoppers who make large purchases and lower-income households."

As customers do not have the option of using their own bags for online grocery orders and have little say on the number of bags used to package the products, no charge is proposed for such purchases, said the consultation paper.

Other proposals include applying the charging model to supermarket operators with annual revenue above a certain threshold, as well as for them to publicly disclose the number of bags they issue, how much they collect in charges for disposable bags and how these proceeds are used.

The call for feedback comes after a citizens' workgroup convened by NEA and the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment provided recommendations on the matter last January.

"In response to the citizens’ workgroup’s recommendation, the Government proposes to make it a legal requirement by the first half of 2023 for large supermarket operators to charge for disposable carrier bags issued at their checkout counters, regardless of the type of material used for the bag," said NEA in the consultation paper.

The agency said that in developing the proposals, it consulted more than 1,000 stakeholders through platforms such as focus group discussions, as well as industry and public consultation sessions.

It also studied the experience of other jurisdictions overseas.

"In Hong Kong, the Netherlands and Taiwan, a plastic bag charge resulted in about 80 per cent, 70 per cent, and 60 per cent decrease respectively in the number of plastic bags given out," NEA said in a media release, noting that more than 150 countries and jurisdictions have either implemented or planned to implement similar charges or ban the use of such bags. 

NEA noted that in 2019 and 2020, households and trade premises in Singapore threw away about 200,000 tonnes of disposables per year, two-thirds of which were made up of disposable bags. 

The agency also pointed to a 2018 Singapore Environment Council study which found that shoppers take 820 million disposable carrier bags from supermarkets a year, or an average of 146 bags per person.

"Such excessive consumption is unsustainable. It not only uses up resources but also adds to Singapore’s carbon emissions when they are incinerated in our waste-to-energy plants," said NEA. 

Members of the public who wish to provide their suggestions can do so at between Jan 27 and Feb 17.

Several retailers have already begun charging for single-use carrier bags. 

Singapore's largest supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice, for instance, started charging customers for plastic bags at all its Cheers and FairPrice Xpress convenience stores on Jan 1.

Source: CNA/az(gs)


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