Malaysiakini Yoursay

The problem is not plastic bags, but what M’sians do with them

Yoursay  |  Published:  |  Modified:

YOURSAY | ‘Audit your home waste and you will find that plastic packaging is exploding.’

Benefits of plastic bag ban far outweigh inconvenience

Nehru: The ban should be such that outlets should not be allowed to sell the banned plastic bags for 20 sen each. They should only be allowed to sell biodegradable bags, which are more expensive, but it should still be around 15 sen each.

The profit from the plastic bags, if they are sold, should go to an environmental agency but profit from biodegradable bags can be for the shops. That would make sense.

The Analyser: The problem is not so much with plastic bags, but what Malaysians do with them. The Malaysian attitude to all forms of litter and environmental degradation is what one would expect from a society that is not just uncaring of the environment, but uncaring of everything.

This wonderful exercise of justification by the Malaysian Nature Society’s Wong Ee Lynn should have come before the introduction of the ban, not after it.

Malaysians with their limited intelligence when confronted with the bag ban immediately jumped to the conclusion that they are right and the ban is wrong, as is always the case.

But the whole attitude of the Selangor government has been wrong. It introduced its garbage sorting programme with punishment if one doesn’t comply.

There was no attempt made to educate people of the benefits and needs for recycling, not even any indication of how to go about it.

Considering how inept Malaysians are when it comes to practical matters, they do need to be shown how to collapse a cardboard carton.

By the way, environmental awareness is not an examination subject. The way to approach the issues is not through a long-winded academic treatise dealing with every aspect of the problem that nobody but the converted will read.

Education needs to be directed at everyone in an easily digested palatable bites.

Threats of punishment, fines and prolix arguments are not the way to go.

Drngsc: Plastic bags are a danger. Plastic bags can cause floods and claim lives. Banning plastic bags is correct.

Please, always keep a recycle bag in your car. Always bring your own bags when shopping. Help us to protect the environment.

Hplooi: As I have averred, the ‘no plastic’ rule by the Selangor state government is ill-thought out. Of course it is fashionable to cite EU/developers experience (in the context of the theories of economist Simon Kuznet).

1. Nobody disputes the environmental damage from throwaway plastics. But just targeting the clueless consumer (context 3) without considering the phenomenal jump of plastics use in society and industry is really ad hocism and green-as-fad.

As I have averred, audit your home waste and you will find that plastic packaging is exploding in Malaysian society.

Walk into any supermarket and just check the food-fruit-vegetable, etc, packaging. Even my up-market boulangerie insists on packing my gourmet tarts in plastics. Or perhaps the mamak stall will now insist on additional 10 sen for teh tarik bungkus?

2. The context behind the current EU directives is more embracing, that is, it also targets industries. This means takeaways at restaurants and packaging for consumer goods will have to seriously rethink and retool, not just the poor consumers.

3. Policy ad hocism and fadism. The EU countries, particularly Denmark, have over four decades of public education. In contrast, in Malaysia despite announcing recycling for households the public are still clueless on how, what, where, when and why this policy is implemented.

If something as fundamental as recycling is not even properly handled, how do you think no-plastics will be handled? Go for the common consumers?

While the biggest cause and source of plastic use (viz big business and industry) just continue as usual? Forgive me if I think the 20 sen rule is a scam and really shows how amateurish the government is.

And citing EU policies or experience of other countries without contextualising is deceitful or just lazy scholarship.

In my opinion, start vigorous outreach and public education on recycling first. In my own taman, I am the only one separating plastics into white recycling bags.

Outreach and education should be sustain, effective and serious, not some expensive and slick PR campaign. Engage the residents associations. Tackling plastic waste first at recycling, in my opinion, will yield a bigger impact.

If you assiduously separate plastic waste in your household you will be astonished by the amount of plastics, and the bulk are not from the 20 sen grocery. Then start public education on the environmental degradation of plastics with the industry on packaging. EU directives include this.

This (industry) may be more difficult as may involve national legislation. It does not help if the federal government is even more clueless. When the issue is more 'matured', then draconian rules of no-plastics may then be implemented.

No plastic’ campaign will fail if sale of plastic bags allowed, says Noh

Anonymous_1371466731: The checkout bags from the hypermarket are re-used as kitchen trash bags.

Without the hypermarket checkout bags, household will still need to buy kitchen trash bags. Hence, stopping the sale or distribution of checkout bags by the hypermarket will not reduce the consumption of plastic bags.

The real culprits are the thin bags used in the open market or street food vendors. They are too thin or too small to be reused as trash bags. Hence those bags are one-time use bags and one of the main contributors to the plastic waste problems.

The current Selangor government’s move on banning the use of plastic bags by hypermarket is misguided as they are not aimed at the actual source of the problem, that is, the thin, small, one-time use plastic bags.

Hplooi: Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Noh Omar, before we even talk about no plastic bags, what happened to the mandatory domestic waste separation policy? Is it on or off?

Where is the public outreach and education programmes on domestic waste? Will we require colour-coded waste recycling bags? How will it be implemented?

And while Noh blows hot-and-cold over the ostensible failure of the Selangor state government’s no-plastic rule, can he enlighten us on national policy on plastic waste? Has the government even thought about it from the perspective of legislation and national policies?

So Noh, please explain how to reduce plastic waste in the Malaysian context.

Well Thats Fantastic: The no-plastic bags rule is working. Even I am now reconsidering my habits because I pay extra every time if I don't.


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These comments are compiled to reflect the views of Malaysiakini subscribers on matters of public interest. Malaysiakini does not intend to represent these views as fact.

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