SHAH ALAM, Nov 11 — The Selangor government will extend its “No Plastic Bag Day” policy by an additional day, state executive councillor Elizabeth Wong said.
The policy that currently bans free plastic bags on Saturdays, however, has caused a decline in business and annoyed voters who deride the ban as inconvenient and ultimately having little impact on the environment.
“The federal government, through the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism, starting next year January 2011, will run this ‘No Plastic Bag Day’ campaign,” said Wong in the state assembly today.
“The state government will also add one more day to the campaign,” she added.
The state Tourism, Consumer Affairs and Environment Committee chairman noted that the state government has collected more than RM250,000 from the 20-sen charge per plastic bag on Saturdays.
She said the money was channelled by the participants in the campaign towards environmental and corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes.
“More than four million plastic bags were saved from this campaign. Until October 2010, 74 supermarkets and retail shops have joined the campaign,” she said.
The Bukit Lanjan assemblywoman also claimed that a June study by independent pollster Merdeka Center showed that about 83 per cent supported the anti-plastic bag policy.
“According to a Merdeka Center research in June, about 83.6 per cent support the Selangor government’s act in running this ‘No Plastic Bag Day’ campaign every Saturday,” said Wong.
Hypermarkets and retail shops in the country’s wealthiest state, however, say they have suffered business declines of up to 30 per cent on Saturdays since Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim’s administration implemented the policy across shopping malls, retail chains and hypermarkets, among others, in January this year.
In Penang, the “No Plastic Bag Day” policy would be enforced every day starting from January 1 next year, said the state’s Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng recently when tabling the 2011 Budget at the state assembly.
The Penang ruling is already seeing opposition from the public.
On the Selangor government’s “No Plastic Bag Day” campaign website, plastic bags were blamed for the deaths of marine animals and for polluting rivers and beaches.
There is, however, little evidence that plastic bags pose a huge threat to the environment as the state government has made it out to be.
Climate scientist James Lovelock has reportedly cited the obsession with plastic bags as “rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic”.
Chris Goodall, the author of “How to Live a Low Carbon Life” and “Ten Technologies to Save the Planet”, also reportedly dismissed the purported seriousness of the environmental impact from plastic bags.
“They (plastic bags) are an easy target because they are one of the most visible environmental problems. But this doesn’t make them the most important environmental issue. Worrying about plastic bags also gives the illusion that small steps make a difference,” he said, as quoted in British daily The Guardian last year.
Goodall also noted that plastic bag taxes, which were reportedly enforced in Ireland in 2002, triggered an increase in the number of bin liners being purchased although the usage of plastic bags dropped.
The plastic of bin liners is much thicker and pose a greater environmental hazard than thin plastic bags, he said.