TRADERS and consumers alike are lauding the Perak government’s decision not to ban the use of polystyrene containers and plastic bags, saying that the people as a whole are not yet ready for such a move.
Coffeeshop owner Wong Mee Yoke said the state government made a right decision to call off the ban, which was set to take effect on June 1.
“Until the state government can provide the public with an alternative to plastic bags, it should not prohibit us from using these forms of packaging,” said Wong, who also sells noodles.
Wong reasoned that while polystyrene food containers can be replaced with biodegradable food containers, which is already a practice among some food traders especially economy rice sellers, there is still no packaging suitable for hot, soupy food.
Last week, Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir deferred plans to impose a statewide ban on both forms of packaging.
The Mentri Besar said in the absence of a feasibility study as well as by not providing consumers with alternatives, going ahead with the ban could potentially lead to other problems.
Beef noodles seller Sunny Ho, 57, said he would have continued using plastic bags had the state government proceeded with the ban.
“It’s not that we want to flout the law, it’s because we have no choice.
“You can ban its use but give us an alternative for plastic packaging for hot soup.
“No doubt, biodegradable food packaging is used in many countries, but they can afford to do so because their cost is significantly lower than ours.
“If we were to do the same, we’d have to charge our customers extra and they’d cry murder. As it is, customers are already complaining whenever there is a 10 sen or 20 sen price increase. It’s a real headache,” Ho said.
Likewise, drinks seller Lim Siew Mei, 33, would have continued using plastic bags even with the ban.
“I wasn’t planning to switch to biodegradable cups and charge my customers extra. Business is already slow, customers would run away if I did,” she said.
In economy rice seller Yap Khen Leong’s case, procrastination has paid off.
“Unlike some other food traders who have already started using biodegradable food containers, I was going to wait until the last minute to replace the polystyrene containers that I’m using.
“With the state government’s latest decision, I won’t be making the switch at all.
“You see, the biodegradable food containers cost 19 sen each compared to seven-and-a-half sen for each polystyrene container,” the 38-year-old hawker said.
Houseman Mohd Akram Ramli, 26, said while he understands the need to go green, imposing such a ban would not have been practical when there was no solution offered.
“It’s not as simple as asking everyone to use tiffin carriers to take away their food. Tiffin carriers are not actually that convenient especially for the working class,” said Mohd Akram.
His colleague Shafik Hazree also agreed that it was very hard to totally cut out the use of plastic bags in daily life.
“Of course, we can use paper cups instead of polystyrene cups like what is being practised at our hospital café. The hospital market also uses paper bags instead of plastic bags.
“But it is impossible to replace plastic bags in every aspect of our everyday lives.
For example, plastic bags are almost a necessity when we go shopping and marketing.
“Also, how else are we to throw our rubbish without plastic bags?” he asked.
Last April, Perak Environment Committee Chairman Datuk Dr Muhammad Amin Zakaria announced that a total ban on plastic bags and polystyrene containers would be enforced in stages, starting with state government buildings.
Two months after that, cafeterias in state buildings started using biodegradable containers every Friday.
The ban on state buildings was subsequently extended from weekly to daily beginning January this year with all municipal councils in the state following suit in preparation for the now-postponed statewide ban.