MSE & NEA Will Work Out Charging Model For Plastic Bags Based On Public Consultations

When Singaporeans go to the supermarket or indeed, any shop, we’re used to having free plastic bags for our purchases.

Many love to take them indiscriminately to wrap even small items, as they can be conveniently disposed of. They can also be reused around the household, for example to put rubbish in.

But this practice may come to an end when all Singapore supermarkets start charging for plastic bags.

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A charging model will be worked on by the Government, after which the charges will be finalised.

Govt supports bag charge suggestion for all supermarkets

In a media release on Saturday (10 Apr), the National Environment Agency (NEA) said the Citizens’ Workgroup on Reducing Excessive Consumption of Disposables made 14 recommendations.

The NEA and the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) agreed with 8 of them.

One of the ideas supported was to impose a charge for all types of single-use carrier bags at all supermarkets.

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Good public support for NTUC FairPrice’s bag charges

Unless your mother does all your grocery shopping for you, you’ll know that NTUC FairPrice started charging shoppers for plastic bags at 7 outlets in Sep 2019.

In Nov 2019, they extended the trial to 25 more outlets, and for 1 year.

It was extended by another year in Nov 2020, as the chain claimed positive public response.

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The NEA has noted the “good” public support for these trials.

They said it was due to Singaporeans’ “growing desire and awareness” that we must stop excessive consumption of disposables.

Other local & overseas retailers are charging for bags

The NEA also pointed out that other retailers like Uniqlo, Watsons, H&M and The Body Shop have started charging for single-use carriers.

BreadTalk also started a trial in 2019 to charge $0.10 per bag at 5 outlets.

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The implementation of plastic bag charges has been successful in many other countries too.

Govt will consult public on charging model

Based on this data, the NEA and MSE will start working on an appropriate charging model for disposable carrier bags at supermarkets.

This will include consulting the public and supermarkets on details like:

  1. The amount to be charged
  2. The mode of charging (e.g. per bag or per transaction)
  3. Timeline for implementation
  4. Time for companies to adjust
  5. Singapore’s local context
  6. How it will affect vulnerable groups

Following these consultations, the details of the charge on plastic bags will be finalised.

Charge could be 5 or 10 cents per bag: Amy Khor

Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, delivered an opening address during the session where the NEA and MSE responded to the proposals.

She explained that the Government was proceeding with a plastic bag charge as Singaporeans are becoming more receptive to it.

Giving an example of a model where shoppers could be charged per bag, she said the fee could be $0.05 or $0.10.

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For the trials at NTUC FairPrice, however, they charged up to $0.20 per transaction.

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Bag charge will facilitate mindset change

The purpose of a bag charge is not because supermarkets or the Government need to make money from consumers.

Neither will it be a “silver bullet” in stopping people from using disposables excessively, Dr Khor said.

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The point of implementing a charge on plastic bags at more places is to facilitate a change in the mindset of Singaporeans, she added,

…it will serve as a very useful, important reminder to the shopper to take and use the bags mindfully.

Hopefully, the fee will help us to be more conscious of our resources and their impact on the environment.

Get used to bringing reuseable bags

For Singaporeans who’re used to just taking plastic bags unthinkingly at supermarkets, paying for them may come as a shock.

However, we need have to realise that we can’t continue such behaviour if we want to conserve resources and protect the planet.

Perhaps we should get used to bringing along reuseable bags, starting from our next grocery shopping trip.

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Featured image adapted from Facebook and Facebook.