MPs reiterate call for plastic bag surcharge; MEWR says focus is on reducing excessive use of all disposables
SINGAPORE: Members of Parliament (MPs) reiterated the call for plastic bag charges in Parliament on Tuesday (Aug 6), but Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor stressed the need for a wider approach beyond “singling out” single-use plastics.
Responding to a question from MP Lee Bee Wah, Dr Khor said that the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) does not exclusively target plastics.
She said: “Our approach has been to reduce the excessive use of all types of disposables, not just single-use plastics, and to promote the use of reusables.
“We do not target plastics alone ... substituting plastics with other types of single-use packaging materials is not necessarily better for the environment.”
All types of disposables have an environmental impact, said Dr Khor.
“The British government has estimated that a cotton tote bag will have to be used 173 times before its greenhouse emissions impact improves beyond that of the plastic bags used to line our bins,” she said.
There are “good reasons” why single-use plastic bags have to be given or used by the public, added Dr Khor.
“For years we have worked hard to inculcate this habit of bagging your rubbish before you dispose it to maintain good public hygiene,” said Dr Khor.
“We don’t want to undo such efforts, irresponsible disposal is going to lead to public hygiene issues like pest infestation for instance.”
Given that Singapore incinerates all its waste, it does not face the “challenges” other countries who are more reliant on direct landfilling do, she added.
WHY THE RELUCTANCE TO CHARGE FOR PLASTIC BAGS? MPS ASK
In response, Nee Soon GRC MP Dr Lee pointed out that a number of her constituents have asked why Singapore has been “so reluctant” to charge for the use of plastic bags, noting that other cities have already begun to do so.
MP Louis Ng, who had raised an adjournment motion in Parliament last year calling for the enforcement in charging for single-use carrier bags, also pointed out that doing so would prevent over-consumption.
This was echoed by MP Lim Biow Chuan.
“I don’t see why MEWR is so resistant to imposing charges for plastic bags,” Mr Lim said.
"When I go overseas ... (and you have to pay) five cents or 10 cents if you want a plastic bag ... The general attitude (of most is) might as well cut down on it.
"And that helps reduce the use of plastic bags.”
Said Dr Khor: “We are interested and closely monitoring developments on this front - in other countries how they manage disposables - and we will study their policies and the implementation outcome and see how they fit into our local context.”