Plastic waste, the last straw
The movement to ban plastic straws is gaining momentum here. Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) is the latest establishment to stop handing out single-use plastic straws. Earlier, fast-food chains KFC and Burger King stopped giving dine-in customers plastic lids and straws for their drinks. KFC estimated its move will save 17.9 tonnes of single-use plastics a year while RWS said it will eliminate about 1.2 tonnes of plastic a year. These initiatives are part of a global movement to re- duce consumer waste and reflect an increasing awareness of the need to reduce plastic pollution, given its deleterious effects on the environment.
There are other single-use plastics that contribute to pollution. Shoppers here take 820 million plastic bags from supermarkets each year, according to a Singapore Environment Council study. The study also reported that 467 million polyethylene terephthalate bottles and 473 million polypropylene plastic disposables are used each year – another major source of plastic waste.
Clearly, more can be done. More than 40 countries have already banned plastic bags, with New Zealand being the latest. While bans are effective actions, there should be consideration given to implementation and consequences. Many Singaporeans say plastic bags are needed for Singapore’s rubbish disposal system as bagged waste is more hygienic. It is possible to ameliorate the effects of bans. Some restaurants which stopped handing out plastic straws are aware that the elderly, young or disabled may still require straws and provide them on request, or offer paper alternatives. Education and outreach must also continue, to remind Singaporeans of the necessity of such moves and to alert them to more environmentally friendly options. Single-use plastics are a short-term convenience but a long-term scourge. It will take concerted and coordinated efforts by all to put a lid on plastic waste.