IT WAS NOT easy when the no-plastic-bag ruling on Saturdays came about in 2010 for Selangor, and I often paid 20 sen for a plastic bag just for being forgetful.
But guess what? Plastic straws are next, as the authorities step up the battle against plastic pollution, with Penang talking about a possible ban.
We will likely get used to it, like the way I eventually refrained from making any purchases if I did not bring my own bag when the plastic bag ban came into effect.
The full plastic bag ban in Selangor was introduced in January last year, with Kuala Lumpur following in September.
It was tough, because soon the 20 sen “lifeline” was no longer available at department stores.
I remember wanting to purchase a few shirts on sale and the cashier informing me they were not handing out plastic bags anymore – even if I wanted to pay 20 sen.
Since I forgot to bring mine, I ended up buying a woven bag instead.
Just imagine the number of bags I have ended up purchasing over the months, but I'm glad that after a year, I stopped buying them.
My parents, on the other hand, coped with the change easier than I had imagined.
They also picked up my waste separation initiative at home and never left the house without a few woven bags with them.
Whenever I needed an extra bag, my mother would sneak one out from her handbag.
It is amazing to see how we have moved forward instead of just complaining that we can’t.
Even my friends from Singapore, who were visiting over the weekend, were amazed at how the ruling was accepted without a fuss.
At present, Singapore has not introduced a levy on plastic bag usage while countries such as Ethiopia and Bangladesh have imposed the ban since the early 2000s.
As we graduate from this phase, our next challenge greets us – to eliminate the use of straws. This one will definitely be tougher.
Last week a group of friends and I met up at a cafe in Kuala Lumpur and one of them ordered iced latte, while the rest of us had a hot drink each.
His cold drink did not come with a straw. Surprised, he asked the waitress if she had forgotten to give him one.
“Sorry sir, we have implemented the no-straw ruling here,” she said while pointing to a notice on the wall.
Needless to say my friend was not impressed and concluded that the cafe should have informed him earlier.
Trust me, drinking an iced drink without a straw can be quite messy especially if you are really thirsty.
Some drinks also can give you the “milk moustache” look, which is not pleasant if you are in a business meeting.
These are just petty reasons and we do need to find a way to start saying no to straws.
This ruling has yet to be applied in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.
However, it does look like our friends in Penang will be taking the lead again.
Last month the Penang government announced that they were looking into banning plastic straws and single-use plastics, such as plastic lids and cups.
Its Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow responded by saying “just do it” when Penang Island City Council mayor Yew Tung Seang proposed to impose the ban.
In my opinion, we should not wait until someone tells us to reduce plastic usage.
We can start on our own and slowly encourage our friends too.
Being an avid runner, I have noticed that several race organisers have started introducing the “bring your own” cup system at water stations.
It is also good to bring your own food containers to take away food from restaurants or food stalls instead of having them packed in biodegradable boxes.
Straws can be a difficult thing to say no to but perhaps you can purchase a bamboo straw or a stainless steel one and remember to bring it with you when dining out.
Meanwhile, I will be drinking more hot coffees or bottled cold drinks for now.