By Bhavani Krishna Iyer
LAST Saturday, as I stood patiently in queue to pay for groceries at a hypermarket in Petaling Jaya, I was consumed by a deep sense of guilt.
I had forgotten to bring my own shopping bag and I would have to find some means of getting my purchases to the car.
I then observed, in the long queue, on an average, only one in 10 had the presence of mind to bring their own shopping bag. Two years after the Selangor government launched the “No Plastic Bag Day” campaign, we still have shoppers purchasing plastic bags on Saturdays. This is really sad.
Let’s face it, the 20 sen charge for a plastic bag is just too affordable and is not a deterrent for people whose affluence has grown in leaps.
It has become a mockery with the supermarkets and traders making a profit selling plastic bags on Saturdays above their profits.
I know some hypermarkets and supermarkets do make empty boxes available for absent-minded shoppers like me to use at our disposal, but these are exceptions rather than the rule.
How do we then increase the level of responsiveness, after having educated the masses on the fact that plastic bags take hundreds to thousands of years to degenerate?
It is time perhaps to go on enforcement and punitive mode.
A friend tells me, in the holy city of Rameshwaram in India, plastic bags are banned. That has worked well for the city which sees pilgrims in thousands daily.
On the days when we do get plastic bags and a generous supply of them, too, we find their size reduced by drastic and unreasonable cost-cutting measures. They have also become dangerously thin. Instead of one bag to carry two 1.5-litre bottles of Coke, for example, I need double plastic bags to carry the same.
More and more people around the world are becoming aware of the environmental issues surrounding plastic bags, but we are not there yet when it comes to individual stewardship.
We do see efforts being implemented in isolation with no follow through, which may be why we do not see the desired results or impact.
Incidentally, I read this rather intriguing bit of news about paper bags doing equal, if not more damage, to the environment than plastic bags.
It seems that many people are using paper bags in the mistaken belief that they are better for the environment than plastic bags.
Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily true — paper bags are just as bad as plastic bags when it comes to the environment. In fact, some say paper bags are worse.
Trees are sacrificed to produce paper bag, which are said to generate more air and water pollutants than plastic bags. Also, more energy is needed to make and recycle paper bags than plastic bags.
I learnt that contrary to the common conception, studies have shown that paper bags generally do not decompose any faster in landfills than plastic bags.
With these in mind, the next time you go grocery shopping, make an informed decision to carry with you reusable bags made from material that do not harm the environment!