UNKNOWN to many, fake and substandard biodegradable plastic bags are being widely used in the Federal Territories.
In determining the real from the fake, Federal Territories Ministry enforcement officers will use their sense of smell and touch to determine.
Federal Territories Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Adnan Mohd Ikhsan said local authorities’ enforcement officers were trained to differentiate between the 100% biodegradable plastic bags from the rest.
“The 100% biodegradable plastic bags have a silky feel and sweet smell.
The enforcement officers, he said, would use their senses to judge and issue a compound if they suspect the plastic bags did not fulfill the requirement.
“If the business owner does not agree, they can bring the matter to court,” he said, adding that they were also aware of many ways plastic bag manufacturers could fool the ministry and consumers.
A year after the use of 100% biodegradable plastic bags and food containers were made compulsory, many businesses using the eco-friendly alternative decided to make a U-turn.
Those who took a step back opted for the much cheaper and regular hydrocarbon plastic bags, photodegradable or oxo-degradable plastic bags, as well as substandard biodegradable plastic bags.
Adnan said unscrupulous plastic bag manufacturers were passing off fake biobased plastic bags as 100% biodegradable.
“The plastic bags also have the ministry’s “biodegradable” stamp as well as the “eco-label stamp” by Sirim, complete with the certification number.
“These manufacturers are not only breaking the law but are also forging the Sirim certification.
“Sirim has yet to take action, so many manufacturers are taking advantage of this,” he said.
Adnan said it was time to come down hard on business owners who used fake biodegradable bags, to put an end to its demand and distribution.
“The initiative was kicked off in 2016 and we have given ample time for the businesses to adapt to the new requirements.
“By right, the businesses should have depleted their old stocks of non-biodegradable plastic bags and food containers,” said Adnan, adding that the requirement to use biodegradable plastic bags and food containers was stipulated in the business licence.
He said 1,025 notices and 90 compounds were issued in the last one year.
“We were focused on creating awareness that explained the high number of notices compared to compounds. The compounds were only issued to business owners with multiple notices.
“From now onwards, repeat offenders will immediately be compounded. People will resist change unless there is enforcement.
“I agree that there has been a lack of enforcement and many people are using hydrocarbon plastic bags in hope that we will turn back on the ruling. We will not,” he warned.
Adnan said some hypermarkets were using fake or substandard plastic bags.
“I urge the management not to think about saving cost but focus on the greater good of the environment,” he said.
“It is not fair to other traders who are observing the ruling. It is the same for those in the plastic bag industry.
“Caring for the environment is a shared responsibility,” he added.
The ministry, he said, kicked off enforcement efforts in September to check on hypermarkets and would move on to night markets in the next phase.
The ban applied to plastic bags used at the check-out counters, Adnan explained.
“Business owners who fail to abide by the ruling can be fined, lose their deposit, have their trading items confiscated, risk termination of their business licence or may even be imprisoned.
“We will only be lenient with the use of plastic straws until the end of next year. Full enforcement on the plastic straw ban will start on Jan 1, 2020,” he added.
Adnan said he was aware of complaints about biodegradable plastic bags being flimsy.
“Bioproducts are not very strong, as they are supposed to degrade easily. It is about 40% less strength of the hydrocarbon bag of the same thickness.
“There are bioproducts to fit every need. If the plastic bag was made to carry a maximum of 3kg, it will not be able to take more than that.
“Business owners need to make sure they are using the right type of plastic bags and food containers suitable for the nature of their business.
“They can also get creative and use paper or banana leaf to line the base,” he added.
Adnan said 14 manufacturers, nine distributors and 42 suppliers were registered with the ministry, adding that the business owners would be provided with the list to ensure that they are getting the real product.
One of the manufacturer in the list is Euro SME Sdn Bhd.
Its business development manager Aranyav Ganguly said his company had a huge stock of 100% biodegradable plastic bags as many business operators refused to buy them as they claimed the prices were too high.
“The price of 100% biode-gradable plastic bags is four
times more than hydrocarbon plastic bags (ones that are now banned).
“Some business operators who placed orders with us in the past got new suppliers claiming to sell biodegradable plastic bags, but sold oxo-degradable or photodegradable plastic bags.
“These plastic bags even come with the Sirim and Federal Territories Ministry stamps.
He gave assurance that there was no problem with supply of such bags.“We have the capacity to supply, but the demand is not consistent. We have 100 machines lying idle without order.
“There will always be issues in the initial stages, but once the demand stabilises, there will not be a problem,” he said.
Yayasan Wilayah Persekutuan (YWP), the ministry’s welfare arm, has taken the onus to stabilise the market for 100% biodegradable plastic bags and food containers.
YWP chief executive officer Zaizalnizam Zainun said small traders could buy 100% biodegradable plastic bags and food containers from their stores in Persiaran MPAJ, Pandan Indah and Pasar Awam Presint 9, Putrajaya.
“We are now selling four types of plastic bags of different sizes that can take up to 5kg, and food containers like lunch box, burger box, plates and bowl.
“We are also in the process of getting more products,” he said.
“The two outlets are open from Monday to Friday, from 8.30am to 5.30pm and Saturday from 8.30am to 1pm. It is closed on Sunday.
“We also have stock at Wisma YWP in Kampung Baru. We are open on weekdays from 8.30am until 5.30pm.
“We also provide delivery service. Our prices are regulated. To ensure its success in penetrating fully into the market, we are making it as convenient as possible for business operators.
“This is our corporate social responsibility to make sure the transition is a success,” he said.
Adnan said the ultimate goal was to stop the use of plastic bags altogether and only use reusable bags.
“We need to make gradual changes. There will be objections but slowly people will accept.”