– United Nations
As everyone knows, plastic waste is the bane of our environment. Educating the public to reduce wastage should continue to be encouraged. Unfortunately, there will always be selfish people out there that simply refuse to do their part. Since plastic waste continues to grow in spite of greater awareness, instead of reducing demand, is it wise to ban plastic bags altogether like some countries do?
A Case Study of Kenya
Last month, Kenya has joined fellow African countries like Rwanda and Ethiopia in banning plastic bags (Kiprop, 2017). Anyone caught having possession of plastic bags risks facing a heavy fine or being jailed for up to four years (theguardian, 2017). Supermarkets alone used to give away about 100 million plastic bags every year. Besides posing a threat to the environment, the improper disposal of plastic bags provides an excellent breeding ground for mosquitoes that transmit malaria, a disease detrimental to human health (UNEP, 2017). As a developing country, with inefficient waste management and limited healthcare services, combatting the plastic menace becomes particularly challenging. Hence, I believe that banning plastic bags in Kenya is a right step towards a cleaner environment for all.
What about Singapore?
Although the cleanliness of our coasts leaves much to be desired, I cannot deny that Singapore is largely clean. Malaria rates are low and our comprehensive disposal system ensures that the streets of Singapore are free from piles of junk. Of course, credit also goes to our hardworking cleaners. As such, there is currently no real need to impose a hasty ban here. Personally I do not wish to see plastic bags get banned. Being lightweight and waterproof, plastic bags are especially ideal for storing our rubbish as compared to water-absorbent paper bags, among other things. Instead of a total ban, we should aim to cut down on excessive usage and take only what we need. The government can consider dangling more carrots in the form of greater monetary incentives to get people to bring reusable bags for grocery shopping. Ten-cent discounts never seem to be enough.
Yet the amount of waste continues to increase, and Pulau Semakau, our only landfill, will be full by 2035 (NEA, n.d.). Should the problem of future waste overwhelms Singapore to the point of no return, then likely the government may have no choice but to whip out the stick and ban plastic bags altogether. It is an inconvenient but a necessary evil to prevent any further environmental degradation. Obviously, I hope that this will never happen in Singapore.
Till next time.
Kenya brings in world’s toughest plastic bag ban: four years jail or $40,000 fine (2017, August 28). Theguardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/aug/28/kenya-brings-in-worlds-toughest-plastic-bag-ban-four-years-jail-or-40000-fine
Kenya announces breakthrough ban on plastic bags (2017, March 15). UNEP. Retrieved from http://www.unep.org/newscentre/kenya-announces-breakthrough-ban-plastic-bags
Semakau Landfill brochure (n.d.). National Environmental Agency. Retrieved from http://www.nea.gov.sg/docs/default-source/energy-waste/waste-management/sl_tmts-brochure.pdf
Victor Kiprop (2017, September 7). Finally, Kenya effects ban on plastic bags. The EastAfrican. Retrieved from http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/business/Kenya-effects-ban-on-plastic-bags-/2560-4086512-10oy0x4/index.html