Mindset change needed to ensure Brunei can reach ‘zero waste’

I WOULD like to respond to the letter ‘Three days a week without plastic bags is good enough’ written by ‘Plastic Bags for Rubbish Please’ in the Opinion page of the Weekend Bulletin published on September 1, 2018.

The letter put forward an argument of going no further with the plastic bag ban in supermarkets and drew attention to the inconvenience of not having plastic bags.

Surely, this is the whole point of the initiative?

The initiative is needed to jolt every consumer out of their wasting habit.

If we only recycle without reducing our plastic usage, we will never be able to reach ‘zero waste’.

As Carsten Wachholz, senior policy officer for the circular economy at the European Environmental Bureau, has said, “We cannot recycle our way out of the plastic pollution wave because we are using too much plastic in the first place.”

Some people’s mindset and self-entitlement are a major cause of the current predicament and the long-term impact this has on the environment should be kept in mind.

The matter of plastic trash bags still being used as a daily necessity to justify fewer plastic free days was mentioned, but the writer failed to acknowledge the eco-friendly oxo-degradable garbage bags available.

Brunei’s lack of recycling bins and proper recycling companies was also touched on, yet this is exactly the reason why we should reduce our waste and bring our own grocery bags.

Such sacrifices are absolutely necessary to facilitate a process of change.

According to a summary report of the 2012 National Environment Conference convened by Asia Inc Forum, Brunei generates 1.4kg of solid waste per person daily whereas most ASEAN member countries generate about one kg or less of solid waste per person daily.

Despite empathising with the issue of having to buy plastic bags to store waste, we strongly believe that alternatives for the alleviation of inconvenience can be discovered through creative waste management.

For example, simple waste items such as empty crisp bags and milk cartons can be used to store wet garbage.

Moreover, food scraps such as carrot tops, stale crackers and even hundred per cent cotton and cardboard q-tips can be buried in your backyard where it will decompose naturally.

Another way to reduce the number of plastic bags used in the household is to separate wet and dry garbage, by storing them in plastic bags and reusable plastic bins or cardboard boxes respectively.

With so many solutions, there is simply no reason for us to end our battle against single-use plastics at three days a week.

After all, one of the main reasons for banning plastic bags is to help people rethink their consumption and waste production as well as stimulate innovation towards a more sustainable future.

In a survey conducted by the Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation involving a thousand participants, it was revealed that the majority of the public supports the initiative.

In fact, 80 per cent of the respondents supported the initiative and 20 per cent used reusable bags every day and not just on weekends.

Fifty-two per cent of the respondents picked Thursday to be the extra day while 64 per cent knew of the negative impact of using plastic bags and support the idea to stop using plastic bags as a whole.

Therefore, since the majority of Brunei’s population supports this initiative, it is safe to say that the no-plastic-bag days are here to stay.

Last but not least, I would like to once again applaud the Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation under the Ministry of Development for making the decision to phase out plastic bags in supermarkets.

– Ms Green Activist