Many using recyclable bags at hypermarts

By LIM CHIA YING chiaying@thestar.com.my Photos by RAYMOND OOI

It has been slightly over a year now since the Selangor government started its ‘No Plastic Bag Day’ campaign on Saturdays.
Shopping made easy: Shoppers at Tesco Mutiara Damansara filling their bags with items.
Selangor Tourism, Consumer Affairs and Environment committee chairman Elizabeth Wong said the response had been good, with calls by several retailers to increase the number of days for the campaign.

“Initially, there were some hiccups and they were concerned whether they could actually do it or not,” said Wong.

“However, the retailers have now become one of our strongest advocates and some even embarked on their own initiative, like AEON where after three to four months of joining the campaign, has called for their Jusco outlets in Kuala Lumpur to be part of it too.

For wider coverage of the campaign to include sundry shops and neighbourhood grocery stores, local councils and the Housing and Local Government Ministry need to be involved,” she said.

“Some small retailers have stopped giving plastic bags completely and have substituted this with paper bags instead.

“Even some local councils, like Sandakan in Sabah, have also adopted Saturdays for the No Plastic Bag policy,” she said.

She added that it was good that the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry had launched the campaign two weeks ago so it would now be a nationwide effort.

Wong said the state was considering to extend the campaign to more days in a week but that a lot of planning and preparation would have to be made first.

A check at Tesco Mutiara Damansara last Saturday saw many shoppers bringing recyclable bags.

Those without bags chose to dump everything inside the trolley and push it to their cars, while a few preferred to pay the 20sen charge per plastic bag.

Shopper Tan Bee Lian, 61, said she had long ago done away with the use of plastic bags, even before the Selangor government implemented its campaign last January.

“I have one big pile of recyclable bags in my car and also two sets of tiffin carriers whenever I need to buy food,” said Tan, who was shopping for groceries at the hypermarket.

“I think Selangor should start extending this campaign to more days instead of only Saturdays.

“Penang, for example, is on the right track,” said Tan.

Another shopper Norazizah Hamid from Kota Damansara was seen buying several plastic bags to pack her purchases.

“I forgot to bring my own bags today because it was an impromptu shopping trip.” said Norazizah, 44.

She said she did not buy recyclable bags that were sold at Tesco because she had many at home.

Lily Shaidaisa from Sunway Damansara said she had been carrying her own bags for over a year now after the state government’s ruling.

“It is fine when we go shopping at stores or hypermarkets but it can be difficult when it comes to takeaway food,” she said.

Another shopper, who wished to be known only as Mohan from Damansara Utama, said the campaign would increase awareness among the people to save the environment.

“It will be good to extend the campaign but most Malaysians like incentives,” he added.

Tesco Malaysia chief executive officer Tjeerd Jegen said the best way to get customers to use recyclable bags was to make it easier, fun and rewarding.

“We focus on reusing the durable Tesco shopping bags made out of recyclable plastic and jute,” he said.

Jegen said so far the company had launched 10 green bags of different designs to appeal to customers.

“Tesco Malaysia has reduced plastic bag usage by more than 50 million since it started the initiative to be eco-friendly two years ago with the help of Green Clubcard Points. We believe we can reduce the use of plastic bags successfully if people can change their attitude and become enthusiastic champions for a lower-carbon lifestyle,” he said.

The amount collected by Tesco from selling plastic bags on Saturdays was donated to the Malaysian Nature Society until December.

Now the money is being channelled to the Tesco Greener Living Fund to carry out conservation projects of its choice.

Also, a check with a few Petronas stations revealed that not all have started implementing the 20sen charge for plastic bags last Saturday.

A notice was put up at the cashier’s counter at the Petronas station along the Sprint Highway informing that 20sen would be charged effective last Saturday. An employee said many customers were fine with the ruling and would carry their purchases to their car.

At the Petronas station in USJ 2, an employee said plastic bags were still given free last Saturday. An employee at the Petronas station in SS8, Petaling Jaya, admitted that while he had seen the circular, the station had yet to implement it because they would have to create a system to tally with the 20sen being collected.

When contacted, Petronas Mesralink centre said a circular was sent out ordering all stations nationwide to implement the ruling but that not all have done so.

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