IT IS drawing close to 10 months since businesses in Selangor have been required to register with their local councils to hand over the 20sen charge for every plastic bag sold as levied by businesses on consumers.
But so far, it is estimated that less than 5% of businesses under each local authority in the state have registered, much less handed over the monies collected from the sale of single-use plastic bags.
Starting Jan 1, the collection programme is part of a state directive where businesses that charge customers for the sale of plastic bags will have to channel the collection to their respective local councils.
From the amount collected, 60% of the collection goes to the state and 40% remains with the local councils.
The money is to be used for environment-related causes.
Types of businesses that are subject to the programme include supermarkets, hypermarkets, restaurants, cafes, pharmacies, accessories shops and clothing stores.
Under the programme, business licence-holders must register and pay the charges as the receipt for the payment will ensure the renewal of their licence for the next year.
Since 2017, consumers have been charged 20sen for each plastic bag they request.
While retailers are free to pocket the charge, they are encouraged to invest the funds in environment-centric programmes.
Few taking part
In Shah Alam for example, only 315 out of 12,000 businesses have registered with Shah Alam City Council (MBSA) since Jan 1.
“We managed to collect over RM300,000 to date since this directive came into effect early this year.
“And we are always registering new premises, ” said Shah Alam mayor Datuk Haris Kasim.
He said the collection was only done once every six months and those who had registered to participate were mostly the bigger establishments like supermarkets.
“We anticipate the smaller ones like sundry shops, hawker centres and others will come on board later, ” he said.
He added that the council had divided the premises into five categories and the businesses would be registered accordingly.
At the same time, the city council plans to build more recycling centres around Shah Alam and carry out environmental awareness programmes with the money collected.
Currently, there are 12 recycling centres in the Selangor capital. The biggest three centres are located in Sections U2, U5 and U13.
“The one at Section U2 has just been completed.
“It is our aim to set up more of such centres to reduce the amount of domestic waste going to our landfills.
“We also have plans to build recycling centres in two traditional villages because villagers should also learn how to recycle, ” said Haris.
The mayor added that MBSA was still in the midst of identifying two villages to build the recycling centres.
In Ampang Jaya, only 226 from an estimated 9,000 licensed premises have so far registered with Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ).
An MPAJ spokesperson said RM108,715 had been collected as of July 15, with the bulk of the collection received from big retailers and supermarkets.
“Registration for the programme tapered off in March after the movement control order (MCO) was implemented,
“But now we are again starting to advise businesses to register by Sept 30.
“This is important because receipt for the payment or registration certificate will be needed when business owners renew their licence, ” said the spokesperson.
Meanwhile, Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) has 419 business premises on board, from which the local council has collected a total of RM786,056.77.
“We have already paid the state 60% of the levy we collected until June, which is RM86,667.47 from the total RM144,445.79 received, ” said MBPJ Corporate Communications officer Ahmad Iskandar Mohamad Mukhtar.
He said the purpose of this levy was in line with the state government’s objective to reduce the use of plastic bags in Selangor.
He added that the money collected would be used by the city council to carry out environmental programmes and also pay for campaign materials used in environmental awareness activities.
Over in Subang Jaya, the municipal council (MPSJ) said a total of 401 premises had registered and the council had collected a sum of RM791,578.05 to date.
“The business premises are broken down into five categories and we require them to register, ” said MPSJ Corporate and Strategic Management deputy director Azfarizal Abdul Rashid.
Selayang Municipal Council (MPS) disclosed to StarMetro that 166 premises had registered with the council and the businesses had collectively contributed more than RM83,938 collected to date.
Is it necessary to register?
While Selangor Government continues to promote the programme, some retailers and business owners are questioning the need to register in the first place.
They said this was creating unnecessary red tape when local councils already had their business information from their licences.
When asked why it was necessary for business operators to register separately since their details would already be in the system when business licences were issued, MPS Corporate Communications Department deputy director Ahmad Fauzi Ishak said it was compulsory for all who wished to participate in the programme to register with the council.
“They will be given a certificate along with the registration number so that it is easier for future reference and transactions that involve the plastic bag charge, ” he said.
“By registering, we can also see if those premises need to pay the charge or be declared plastic free, ” Azfarizal said, explaining plastic-free premises meant that alternative packaging was provided.
Accounting and accountability
A mini market proprietor in Ukay Perdana, Ampang said that he was told to register for the programme but did not see the point of it.
“We do not keep track of how many plastic bags that have been sold to customers.
“Even then, the 20sen we charge goes into the overall accounts and is not kept separately, so how will I know how much to hand over, ” he said.
A restaurant owner in Kuala Ampang was of the view that there was no accountability from local councils as to what specific projects the collected funds would be used for.
“How do we know that the money will be used for community or environmental programmes?
“It would be better for the authorities to ban or limit the usage of single-use plastics than to charge money for it, ” he said.
With the money collected, MPSJ plans to rejuvenate parts of Sungai Klang and Sungai Kuyoh under their jurisdiction.
MPS stated that it would be using the money collected for future environmental programmes.
In June, Selangor environment, green technology, science, technology, innovation and consumer affairs committee chairman Hee Loy Sian said the collection programme was still ongoing but the expected amount would be lower because of the MCO.
He had said that the main purpose of the programme was to reduce the use of plastics and not as a revenue stream for the state.
He added that the government would focus on continuing to educate the public to reduce the use of plastics further.