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Environment

Australia is right to say no to plastic bags: never mind the angry shoppers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 July, 2018, 8:03am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 July, 2018, 8:03am

I refer to your report on the abuse suffered by grocery chain staff in Australia, as the country moved to ban single-use plastic bags to reduce waste (“Supermarket staff suffer customer ‘bag rage’ as Australia imposes plastic ban”, July 2). Shoppers frustrated with the change reacted angrily, and one man even grabbed a store worker by the throat.

To placate shoppers and help them get through the transition, one national supermarket chain has decided to offer reusable bags for a few cents until July 8.

But irate customers must see the reason behind the ban, which is the fact that up to 5 trillion single-use bags are consumed worldwide each year, and more than 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the world’s oceans each year, according to estimates by the UN’s environment agency, which has called for single-use bags to be eliminated completely by 2022.

Hong Kong’s plastic addiction must end – starting with its businesses

In China, there are similar bans, but the ban is only on thin plastic bags. China was using 3 billion bags a year before 2008, but after the ban was implemented, the use of thin bags decreased by 60-80 per cent in supermarkets, though they are still given out by shopkeepers and street vendors.

One Asian country battling major environmental pollution is Vietnam. A 2015 report said five Asian countries – China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand – were responsible for up to 60 per cent of the plastic waste polluting the ocean.

Watch: Plastic waste chokes Asia’s oceans

As a developing country, Vietnam’s rapid economic growth is generating an increasing amount of waste, including plastic waste. Vietnam has implemented a tax on plastic bags, but these are still widely used, so the government is considering a substantial increase in the levy.

The developed world is also doing its bit to reduce plastic waste. Apart from Australia, the UK government is moving to ban plastic straws, cotton buds and single-use plastics. With so many countries willing to cooperate and impose tough measures to tackle plastic waste, the fight against this global problem can be expected to bring significant results in the foreseeable future.

Rainbow Or, Tseung Kwan O

Selfish shoppers can’t make others pay for their plastic addiction

Going by Australians’ strident objections to measures that reduce plastic pollution, Hong Kong should gird its loins in facing stiff resistance to eco-friendly strategies.

Over the years, a lot of us in Australia have become used to carrying our own durable shopping bags, replacing them when they are worn out beyond repair. But many shoppers accept without second thought the apparently free single-use plastic bags at supermarkets. Some even demand a bag per individual item, as they stock up as if to weather the calamity of an imposed plastic bag shortage.

We now hear that some supermarkets have gifted shoppers with another month’s grace to make the less-than-difficult adjustment of taking enough durable bags to shop with.

As conscious consumers, we are being doubly charged, once for our durable bags and then, unfairly, to subsidise the plastic bag habit of others, with the latter cost being added to purchase prices of everyone’s groceries. It’s time to wrap up this argument: those who decline bags should not be obliged to pay for the profligate addiction of others.

Joseph Ting, Brisbane