By JADE CHAN firstname.lastname@example.org
THE “No Plastic Bag” campaign introduced by the Selangor government has netted RM274,000 from consumers who have to pay 20sen for each plastic bag they use at retail outlets.
According to state tourism, consumer affairs and environment committee chairman Elizabeth Wong’s office, more than 100 hypermarkets, supermarkets, pharmacies, convenience stores, bookstores and other retailers are taking part in the campaign.
With the campaign in place for more than a year in Selangor, there is also the question of where the funds collected are channelled to.
Wong’s office said the onus was on the retailers to collect and channel the funds to environment-friendly initiatives on their own.
This could offer an opportunity for some retailers to reap more profits, because the funds could easily be channelled into their own coffers.
Some like The Body Shop, Ikea, Bangsar Village, Origins and soon Carrefour and Tesco, have chosen to channel the funds to the Malaysian Nature Society’s (MNS) environmental conservation projects like its tree-planting campaign.
MNS head of communications Andrew Sebastian said the “green sin money” was used for their tree-planting campaign that made it easy for the people to monitor the expenditure.
Sebastian said each retailer had their own way of collecting the funds.
“One of our key focus right now is to rehabilitate the mangrove ecosystem in Sepang and the Kuala Selangor Nature Park which were devastated by aquaculture farms,” he said.
Sebastian feels that the recycling practice among Malaysians in general is still poor.
While there are community recycling centres available at selected locations, he said a lack of awareness and education, compounded by different perceptions of recycling, had hindered a successful recycling practice.
Centre for Environment, Technology and Development Malaysia (Cetdem) executive director Anthony Tan said the government could do much more in terms of enforcing laws and policies, like extending the campaign to hawkers and market traders, getting retailers to offer incentives to those who bring their own bags and containers, offering cash incentives for households and community composting, and setting a minimum recommended price for recyclable materials.
“There are not enough recycling centres to promote the 3R (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) habit, plus an acute shortage of large bins that can cater to the huge amount of recyclable material.
Sebastian said the government should provide sufficient avenues for people to practise recycling and come up with an education campaign to promote recycling.
“One long-term measure would be to make recycling a way of life either through enforcement or legislation.
“Housing areas or apartment blocks should provide their own recycling bins to serve as collection points,” he said.
Most importantly, Sebastian said the public should practise sustainable consumerism by buying only what they need and consuming less.
He said for the campaign to be effective there should be a gradual phasing out from minimal to eventually zero use of plastic bags.