Penang ‘no plastic bag’ policy under fire


GEORGE TOWN: Six years after Penang enforced a policy of “no plastic bags every day”, people are still willing to pay 20 sen a bag at supermarkets and some fast-food shops.

The no-plastic campaign was aimed at encouraging Penangites to bring their own shopping bags and help reduce Penang’s carbon footprint.

The Consumer Association of Penang’s education officer, N V Subarrow, said the state should set a time frame to measure the success of the campaign and “not keep continuously charging 20 sen for a plastic bag.”

“After seven years, people should realise that plastic is bad but we can see that people are still using plastic. This shows that the campaign did not leave much impact on the people,” he told Bernama.

Subarrow urged the state government and supermarkets to take a bold step to change from plastic bags to paper bags or recycled boxes, as practiced overseas.

“Paper is eco-friendly and paper bags are made using recycled paper. This directly can reduce the dependency on plastics and at the same time recycle the papers. It is a win-win situation,” he said.

A random survey by Bernama found that most of the respondents were in favour of conversion, from using plastic bags to paper bags or recycled boxes.

Wan Humaira Wan Roslan, 33, welcomed the idea, saying it was more convenient and eco-friendly.

“Sometimes, I forget to bring my own bag to do shopping and I have to buy plastic bags to put my stuff in. However, half of the time, the plastic bags that I purchased ripped apart. Hence, if the policy is converted to paper bags or recycled boxes, I welcome it with open arms,” she said.

Chan Lian Ling, 28, concurred but also questioned what happened to the money collected from the sale of plastic bags.

“I do not mind paying when in a desperate situation but I just want to know where all the money collected went to. What makes me more curious is that not all shops or outlets participate in the campaign but everyone is charging for a plastic bag even at sundry shops,” she said.

K Ganesh, 55, said the “no plastic bag” campaign was a good move to educate the public, “but the execution part has its flaws”. He said the campaign was meant to be an educational one, not a money-making machine for any political party.

“Every shop is charging 20 sen even when they are not participating in the campaign, but the state government is not doing anything to stop it. Therefore, I agree 100 per cent with the move to stop selling plastic bags and change it to paper bags,” he said.

State executive councillor Phee Boon Poh said the money collected from the 20 sen levy would go towards the eradication of poverty.

He warned all supermarkets and retail shops to register with the state government or face action by the local council.

“They claim that they only follow the federal ruling on no plastic bag on Saturdays, but they have to remember they are in Penang, so they have to follow the state policy which is that every day is a no plastic bag day,” he stressed.