Plastic bags may no longer be free in supermarkets as the government is ready to open discussions on when such a measure can be implemented and how much to charge.
Revealing this yesterday, Minister of State for Sustainability and Environment Amy Khor said supermarkets and the public would also be consulted on how to bill – whether by bag, from the third bag or per transaction, and at five cents or 10 cents per bag, for example.
She said the time needed to implement the levy will be taken into account, as the industry would need time to adjust. Dr Khor added that there may be a need for legislative changes.
The government should also think about the destination of revenue from disposable bag fees, for example for environmental causes.
She said one of the reasons for the government’s decision to implement a levy on disposable bags was that consumers were becoming increasingly receptive to billing for disposable items.
Dr Khor pointed out that while billing for carrier bags, including paper ones, is not a silver bullet to curb excessive use of disposables, “even though it is a burden symbolic mandatory for disposable transport bags in the supermarket, it will serve as a very useful, important reminder to the buyer to take and use the bags with care ”.
She was speaking at the last session of a citizen working group on reducing the use of disposable products, where the Ministry of Sustainable Development and the Environment (MSE) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) have announced eight recommendations which they support and will help develop.
One of the eight is the charging model for disposable bags in supermarkets.
The MSE and NEA will begin public and industry consultations later this year to develop the model.
In a speech to the task force in January, Dr Khor explained why the government has so far not charged a fee for disposable bags.
The reasons included the need for plastic bags to bag waste responsibly and hygienically, the strict waste control measures here, and the impact of costs on low-income households.
Yesterday, Dr Khor said Singapore’s measures to establish charges for disposable bags in supermarkets would take into account any potential impact on low-income households.
Since November 2019, FairPrice has imposed a levy on plastic bags at 25 outlets.
The bags are charged 20 cents per transaction in its supermarkets and 10 cents per transaction in its convenience stores like Cheers.
Between 2019 and last year, these outlets saved 15.6 million plastic bags, noted Dr Khor.
About seven in ten customers who shopped at these outlets either chose to have their own bags with them or refused plastic bags.
Retailers such as Uniqlo, Watsons, H&M, and The Body Shop also charge for single-use carry bags.
In 2019, around 200,000 tonnes of disposables, enough to fill 400 Olympic-size swimming pools, were sent for incineration.
Dr Khor added that a 2018 study by the Singapore Environment Council found that shoppers here pick up 820 million plastic bags from supermarkets each year, or 146 bags per person.
Excessive consumption of disposables adds to carbon emissions, and incineration ash takes up valuable space at the Semakau landfill, the NEA said in a statement.
Supporting the Citizens’ Task Force’s recommendation to improve sustainability education on e-learning platforms, MSE and NEA will work with the Ministry of Education to improve environmental sustainability education in schools. through the eco-stewardship program and tailor content into a one-stop website for the public.
Regarding suggesting gamification apps or methods that can inspire people to track and reduce their use of disposables, NEA and MSE encouraged people to explore this and integrate it into existing apps and platforms. .
Individuals and organizations interested in working with government to jointly develop some of the recommendations can express their interest at go.gov.sg/cwginterest by May 31.