Plas­tic waste, the last straw

The Straits Times - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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