Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong (Hougang): Mdm Chairperson, with Singaporeans increasingly aware of the need to be environmentally conscious, we should bolster our fight against the use of plastics. In the Green Plan, one of the key pillars is sustainable living, where policies will be geared towards propelling us into a zero-waste nation powered by a circular economy. Physical recycling is the main channel to reuse plastic, but our current recycling rate of only 4% for plastics is poor. To tackle our plastics waste issue, we will, therefore, also need a reduction of plastics consumption, especially single-use plastics. When we are just focusing solely on recycling, this neglect on reducing our waste is what drives production which, in turn, creates carbon footprint.
To put matters in perspective, a recent research by researchers from NTU and their colleagues in Finland has shown how single-use plastic bags have a global warming potential 14 times more than a reusable plastic bag. I understand that the citizens’ workgroup on reducing excessive consumption of disposables was convened and it called for a fee for each plastic bag if they take three or more of them at supermarkets. I wish to lend my support to this call and ask that the Ministry also study a single-use plastics charge across retailers and F&B outlets, phased in over five years, to encourage a reduction in plastics waste and look for alternatives.
Concerns raised on the potential negative effects on lower income households can be tackled by having a rebate scheme. The authorities can also work with charity groups and non-profit organisations to give out complimentary reusable bags. I repeat my call in my Budget debate speech last year for mindsets to shift in the way we consume, to only use what we need to use. In supermarkets or shops, can we use more of good quality reusable shopping bags like this one, something that I have been using for the last nearly 20 years? If we only need to use, say, one or two plastic bags for refuse disposal a day, can we not take more plastic bags than we need? In this way, we may end up using fewer plastic bags and may still have enough bags for our refuse.
Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment
4 March 2021