GEORGE TOWN: After imposing a statewide ban on plastic bags 10 years ago, the state government has decided to take the initiative one step further – no plastic bags for shoppers even if they are willing to pay 20 sen starting July 1.
State Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said for a start, the move would only take place every Monday where operators of fixed premises – hypermarkets, pharmacies, and convenience and department stores – are encouraged to stop giving out plastic bags to shoppers.
He said the initiative would be on a voluntary basis, adding that this was being done for the good of the environment.
“We do not want them to do it just because it is a policy.
“We want them to know that the environment belongs to everyone and we should love the environment by not using plastic bags.
“My office will prepare the posters for these operators to encourage consumers to voluntarily stop using plastic bags,” he said.
The Penang government had introduced the ‘No Plastic Bag Day’ in stages, starting with the ruling that no free plastic bag would be given on Mondays from July 2009.
It was extended to three days in a week in 2010, and daily in 2011 for certain businesses.
Plastic bags have to be bought at 20 sen each at hypermarkets, supermarkets, departmental stores, convenient stores, fast food restaurants, petrol stations, chain stores and pharmacies.
The policy does not apply to petty hawkers, those at wet markets and stand-alone businesses.
In March this year, state Local Government Committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo said the state had collected RM8.9mil since the “No Free Plastic Bag” move was introduced in 2009, in which such bags are charged 20 sen each.
Phee said the money collected was used for various programmes implemented under the Agenda Ekonomi Saksama (Just Economic Agenda) to assist the poor.
“We want to give back to the people under the poverty eradication programmes in Penang,” he said.The Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) welcomed the move, saying plastics were a bane to the environment.
“From the extraction of raw materials to the production, usage and disposal, it’s a total scourge and should be eliminated entirely.
“Not all plastics can be, or are recycled and plastic is present in our waters, air and even in our bodies,” said its acting president Mohideen Abdul Kader.
Mohideen said there was a need to beat plastics pollution “before we suffocate the world and ourselves with plastics.”
“Redesigning products, packaging and delivery systems besides eliminating the use of single-use plastic products and packaging are essential steps to safeguard human health and the environment,” he said.Gama Supermarket and Departmental Store senior manager Leong Hau Soon said the initiative was good for the environment, adding that the store would take the necessary steps to adhere to the initiative.“If it is compulsory, we will definitely take the necessary steps to comply with the ruling.
“Right now, we are still waiting for the official instruction or letter from the state government,” she said when met at the supermarket yesterday.
Leong said customers who spent above a certain amount at their departmental store would be given paper bags as an alternative for plastic bags.
She, however, said this did not apply at the supermarket as the groceries were too heavy for paper bags.