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NEA launches campaign to encourage shoppers to use reusable bags

By Wong Mun Wai, Channel NewsAsia
11 April 2007 2242 hrs

SINGAPORE : You can do your bit to help cut down global warming - all you have to do is buy a reusable shopping bag, and use it in place of plastic bags which are harmful to the environment.

This is part of a new campaign by Singapore's National Environment Agency (NEA) which starts next week.

It is aimed at reducing the amount of waste created.

This latest campaign by the NEA is about changing mindsets of shoppers.

That is why it's working with seven food retailers to sell reusable bags.

From next week, shoppers who still want a plastic bag will be asked to make a 10 cent donation.

And starting in May, the first Wednesday of each month will be dedicated for shoppers to bring their own bag.

The NEA hopes to increase the low 2% of shoppers using reusable bags.

But bringing your own bag clearly needs some getting used to.

"Well I guess you would have to remember to bring it all the time. That's one. And I wonder how big it is as it may be a bit inconvenient if you bring it along with you all the time, especially if you're on a bus or on a MRT," says one member of the public.

"It is good but habits are hard to change. Moreover, they are still giving us free plastic bags," says another.

Singapore consumes 2.5 billion plastic bags each year.

"We noticed that over the years, more and more plastic bags are being used. So we felt it is important that we start educating our people on how they should use the plastic bags," says Lee Yuen Hee, CEO of NEA.

Singapore incinerates its waste plastic bags and burning a tonne of them produces almost 2,900 kilograms of carbon dioxide - the gas that causes global warming.

Global warming is the reason why glaciers melt, causing sea levels to rise. And that is a serious issue for islands like Singapore.

And some plastic bags end up as rubbish, polluting beaches and clogging up waterways & drains.

"Each year, we do waste studies in incineration plants, and found a large amount of plastic bags unused and thrown away by people as trash items. This indicates that there is huge room for us to cut down the wastage," says Yang Hong, Senior Environment Health Executive, Resource Conservation Department, NEA.

And that's why, instead of promoting retailers to switch to biodegradable bags, NEA's strategy is to focus on public education, as everyone has a part to play. - CNA /ls

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