THE European Union and New Zealand recently decided to ban single-use plastic within three years and six months respectively. They are following Bangladesh, China, Israel, South Africa, Netherlands, Morocco, Kenya, Mauritania, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Albania and Georgia.
Bangladesh was the first country to impose the ban in 2002. Kenya started the ban in 2017 and has the toughest laws at reducing this scourge which includes imprisonment and heavy fines.
Some other countries impose a tax on single-use plastic bags. In total, 40 countries have a total ban or a tax on plastic.
Malaysia, too, has a ban in place with the Roadmap Towards Zero Single-Use Plastic but this would not be fully implemented until 2030, 12 years from now, which is much too long.
By 2030 or even earlier, we may very likely be one of the very last countries to have this total ban and be the oddity and recalcitrant among the nations of the world.
Starting next year, all states can individually decide on the implementation of a minimum charge of 20 sen for each plastic bag between the period of 2019 and 2021.
It’s only at end of this period that a nationwide charge is imposed.
Some states may not implement it to maintain populist or partisan politics. A ridiculous farce may happen where plastic bags are brought in from states with no charges to states where the plastic bags are charged, to be sold.
There is a clear 20 sen profit or more to be made.
Most of the countries that have banned or put a tax on plastic implemented the law in a short time.
In Kenya, six months’ notice was given before ban took effect, and most Kenyans adapted quickly and are happy about the ban. New Zealand has adopted the six months’ time frame as well.
The EU with their diversity of nations, nationalities, culture, laws and wealth have only given themselves three years. They have taken the plastic menace to the environment seriously, and they know that the cost of not taking prompt decisive action far outweighs the cost of providing landfills, cleaning up, and healthcare in the future.
Our government must shorten the 12-year time frame for the total ban of plastic.
Instead of the three years of voluntary charges for plastic bags by the states, make it mandatory nationwide at 50 sen per bag beginning next year. Research has shown that countries imposing such taxes have been effective in substantially reducing the amount of plastic waste.
Alternatives to single-use plastic bags, straws, cups and cutlery are already available in Malaysia. Businesses and factories for these alternatives are already up and running and waiting to expand.
This is a migration of one business to another rather than just a total loss of the plastic industry.
We are most probably setting ourselves up for an environmental fiasco in adopting a 12-year timeframe. Apart from being one of the last countries to ban plastic, we will be laggards in the new green circular economy and a wasteland for plastic.
KOO WEE HON