THESE days I feel guilty when buying takeaway drinks because of the single-use plastic waste generated.
I recently placed an order for coffee at the drive-through of a fast food and to my surprise, a small single-use plastic bag containing my warm coffee in a paper cup (with the plastic lid) was handed to me.
I did not see the need for the plastic bag so I returned it to the carhop (drive-through server).
I was at a school canteen not long ago and the drink I ordered came with a straw.
When I told him I did not need it, he took the straw out and threw it into the dustbin, much to my horror.
These incidents show ignorance on the need to reduce single-use plastics. I am guilty of contributing to this waste too.
In recent months the bubble tea craze has seen mostly youths queuing for hours to delight in their sugar-loaded tea with chewy pearls or boba in it.
I cannot relate to their fascination for bubble tea as they are too expensive and sweet drinks are not my cup of tea.
One bubble tea order can cost up to RM15 but what baffles me is that most of these brands do not provide eco-friendly plastic containers.
I learned from people who consume bubble tea that these brands do not allow customers to bring their own containers due to company policies.
As youths themselves, Bandar Utama assemblyman Jamaliah Jamaluddin, 30, Kampung Tunku assemblyman Lim Yi Wei, 29, and Subang Jaya assemblyman Michelle Ng, 29, raised the issue of single-use plastic waste from the food and beverage industry at the recent Selangor State Assembly.
They expressed concern over single-use plastic waste from bubble tea businesses and also food delivery companies.
Jamaliah suggested that the state government impose tax on bubble tea business operators who fail to provide eco-friendly alternatives.
Lim said she hoped more food delivery companies would use paper bags and allow customers to opt-out from receiving plastic cutlery.
Meanwhile, Ng has been engaging with bubble tea business operators together with the Subang Jaya Municipal Council to encourage alternatives for single-use plastics.
In July, Selangor environment, green technology, science, innovation and consumer affairs committee chairman Hee Loy Sian launched the #bebasstrawplastik campaign where plastic straws are not to be displayed over the counter and can only be given upon request.
He also announced that local authorities would collect 20sen from operators for every plastic bag given out to shoppers at hypermarkets, supermarkets and selected mini marts, starting Jan 1.
During the recent state assembly, Hee said the state government would meet bubble tea business operators for a dialogue in December to discuss the issue.
Putting aside government policies, rules, regulations and enforcement aimed at reducing single-use plastics, what has happened to our conscience in doing our best to save Mother Earth?
We also need to rethink if non-recyclable paper alternatives are good for the environment.
Why is the public not demanding eco-friendly alternatives? Why are we still closing a blind eye to single-use plastics.
Why are we not urging multinational companies that sell fast moving consumer goods in plastic packaging to provide more acceptable alternatives?
They, too, should be playing an active role in replacing conventional packaging with something that would be better for the environment.
My point is that we as consumers have the power to decide on the kind of products we choose to consume based on how they are packaged.
Let us make our voices for a greener earth be heard as individually and collectively as we can make a difference.