Disposable shopping bag ban shouldn’t be the end game

Before moving to Brunei a year ago, I was delighted to hear that there was a plastic shopping bag ban in supermarkets. And I have indeed been happy to see that working well here.

However, I would encourage people to look at the bigger picture regarding plastic use. It seems like some supermarkets make up for the lack of disposable shopping bags by wrapping items with as much plastic as possible.

The over-packaging of goods, especially fruits and vegetables, is simply excessive. I have travelled to many countries – and lived in some of them. But only in Brunei have I seen fruits so over-packaged so regularly.

Fruits generally don’t need packaging, because nature has already provided them with skins.

So why do supermarkets feel the need to put bananas on a Styrofoam tray and then wrap them with cling film? Or plastic wrapping mangoes, papayas and coconuts (and often with foam netting for good measure)? Or chopping up fruits, place them on Styrofoam trays and wrap them with cling film? Or make available only huge plastic bags for fruits, vegetables and tofu when very often, people including myself only fill up a third of the bag?

I am aware that in recent months, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, some people have been equating more packaging with “safer”. Given that fruits already come with their own “protective gear”, is all the packaging even necessary?

Meanwhile, our planet is ravaged by the ever-growing amount of non-biodegradable plastic articles that are now filling our oceans, littering our beaches and clogging our waterways.

They are killing the wildlife. By 2050, it’s possible to imagine a world where there’d be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

We are now confronted not only by the horror of visual pollution; broken-down microplastics are found inside many animal species as well as in our environment, leading to untold problems in the future.

Recent research suggests that microplastic particles attract toxic chemicals, such as pesticides. By ingesting them, we may well be putting our health at risk.

The simple fact is: We don’t yet know for sure what harm all these plastic articles are doing to our health. They are synthetic materials that we have only recently started ingesting, and thus too soon to know the health consequences. But the fact that it’s worrying scientists should give us pause too.

Concerned About Plastics