Public praise ‘No Plastic Every Day’ initiative

|    Azlan Othman    |

MEMBERS of the public have received the country’s ‘No Plastic Every Day’ initiative warmly, commending the campaign and saying that it is a great start to the New Year.

However they said convenient stores or minimarts should also op in on the plastic-free drive, otherwise the initiative would be “meaningless”.

“Just buying a cone of ice cream or snacks, the shops will give you a plastic bag, when really it is unnecessary unless you buy 10 of them. For night market vendors it’s encouraging that they are joining in on the initiative. Customers need to bring their own bags for purchases and the vendors are using paper bags instead,” said Batrisyah, a student.

Effective December 31, 2018, plastic grocery bags are banned seven days a week at all participating stores and shops in the country.

Jamarshah, an entrepreneur, commented of the move, “I urge the authorities to also place more recycle bins at strategic places to encourage the 3R (reduce, reuse and recycle) initiative.

“It is sad to note that our beaches are littered with rubbish and plastic bags, the work of irresponsible people, which are dangerous to marine life. We lack civic-mindedness,” he added, lamenting the country’s lack of a green culture.

According to a report by environmental advocacy group Ocean Conservancy and the McKinsey Centre for Business and Environment, Southeast Asian nations are among the worst offenders when it comes to disposing plastics into the seas and oceans.

The bodies and other environmental groups are calling on ASEAN to play a stronger regional role to help stem the plastic tide.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, an intergovernmental forum for 21 Pacific Rim member economies, is also looking closer at plastic pollution, considering its economic impact. The forum estimates the cost of plastic pollution to the tourism, fishing and shipping industries at USD1.3 billion for the region.

Casting our gaze homeward, official figures indicate that Brunei is the highest per capita waste producer in the region, with each person generating an average of 1.4kg of solid waste per day. The government’s target is to reduce that figure to 1kg by 2035.

Because of the heavy problem plastic bags and plastic materials pose to the environment, the Ministry of Development through the Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation (JASTRe) launched several ‘No Plastic Day’ campaigns starting March 26, 2011 and held every Saturday and Sunday.

The campaigns were later extended to include Friday after February 17, 2013 to alert users about the problems and consequences of widespread plastic use.

In April last year, the initiative expanded and included Thursday as a ‘Day Without Plastic’, making it four days a week that plastic bags are banned, a move made in honour of Earth Day 2018’s ‘End Plastic Pollution’ theme.

Separately, a study conducted by JASTRe three years ago involving 1,000 respondents found that 80 per cent of the respondents reported benefits from the ‘No Plastic Bag Weekend’ initiative; and that 20 per cent shared that they use reusable bags daily (not during the weekends only), reflecting public acceptance of alternative and eco-friendly ways to carry groceries such as reusable bags.

Some 52 per cent of the survey respondents chose Thursday as the additional plastic-free day, followed by Monday (18.5 per cent), with 64 per cent indicating that they know and realise the negative effects of plastic bag use and support the proposal to discontinue the use of plastic bags as a whole.

Other surveys conducted by JASTRe found that supermarkets (not including retail stores or night markets/stalls) in the country use between 3,000 and 8,000 plastic bags every Saturday and Sunday, with each supermarket using between 144,000 and 393,600 plastic bags every year on these two days.