Brunei can do more in its ‘plastic-free’ effort

ON JULY 2, 2019, the Indonesian government announced that it will impose duties on plastic bags to reduce waste. It said it will slap a plastic bag duty of USD0.014 per sheet.

Its Customs and Excise director general said the duty cannot be too high or too low as it needs to balance many factors. It paid attention to industry players, people’s purchasing power, manpower and the environment. Too high of a duty will disrupt industries; and that’s clearly understandable – there are humans too who need to eke out a living.

The reason for the duty imposition is to reduce plastic consumption, especially bags made from resin or non-recyclable materials.

It also plans to set lower rates for recyclable plastics – thus making it more affordable for small retailers such as supermarkets and convenience stores to use them.

Indonesia is not the only country to impose duties on plastic bags. Others are Denmark, South Africa, Taiwan, Ireland and Malaysia. How about Brunei?

Brunei can definitely do the same.

After all, such as step is a mere continuation of its highly commendable initiative to ban the use of plastic bags at supermarkets.

At the end of last year, the Ministry of Development through the Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation (JASTRe) announced the addition of Monday to the ‘No Plastic Every Day’ initiative.

That means since then plastic grocery bags are banned at participating stores and shops everyday in week, unlike previously.

The initiative, which carries the slogan ‘It takes a nation to end plastic pollution’, emphasises the importance of an integrated effort towards combating plastic pollution.

It will be extended to other consumers of plastic bags such as convenience stores, restaurants and markets.

Early this year, ASEAN was in the spotlight for the wrong reasons; the newly formed Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW) singled out the region for its disproportionate contribution to plastic waste in the environment – especially the ocean.

Approximately eight million tonnes of plastic enters the oceans every year.

With the region among the worst ocean polluters, the AEPW has promised to fund various programmes to reduce plastic waste in Southeast Asia.

Excessive plastic use and inefficient waste collection and recycling have been among Southeast Asia’s biggest environmental problems.

Brunei already has a few superlatives compared to its ASEAN neighbours; its standard of living, life expectancy and Human Development Index are among the best in the region.

It also provides free education and medical services to its people. And the literacy rate in Brunei is estimated at 92.7 per cent of the population.

Why not expand Brunei’s excellence in other areas too by being the most ‘plastic-free’ nation in Southeast Asia?

Making plastic bags more expensive by imposing duties on them and lowering the rates for recyclable plastics are one way to do it.

By doing so, Brunei in a small but significant measure will play its part to help ASEAN get rid of its ‘worst ocean polluters’ tag.

That’s a great weight off the region’s shoulders.

– Green Advocate