PETALING JAYA, Aug 15 — The nationwide campaign to reduce the use of plastic bags has failed to influence the attitude of most people, say consumer groups.
Perak Consumers Association president Abdul Rahman Said Alli said the authorities failed to implement the policy properly as the use of plastic bags was still widespread.
“Policy is one thing but the implementation aspect has been a failure. It is a half-hearted effort and is ineffective (in reducing dependence on plastic bags),” he said.
Abdul Rahman said the government should set an example of ‘green behaviour’ instead of charging for plastic bags once a week.
“I take issue with government servants. Every day you can see them buying food in plastic bags. Why not ban plastic bag use in government departments to show how it should be done?”
He also suggested educating the public and retailers on the importance of reducing plastic bag use.
“The authorities must focus on educating the people who hand out plastic bags and tell them there are alternatives.
“These alternatives may be more expensive but consumers have adapted to the Goods and Services Tax. It stands to reason that they will adapt to this (non-plastic alternative) as well.”
Malaysian Consumers Association secretary-general Datuk Amarjit Singh Gill said the authorities would have to step up efforts to educate the public on the environmental impact with the use of plastic bags.
He said awareness overseas was much higher than in Malaysia as those countries had invested heavily in campaigns.
Amarjit suggested consumers be rewarded for not using plastic bags to get them on board.
“Instead of charging them for using plastic bags, perhaps stores could offer a one per cent discount or vouchers for those who bring their own bags.
“There are many ways to limit plastic bag use,” he said.
Consumers Association of Penang said the campaign would not be effective if no concerted effort was made to ban distribution of free plastic bags in all outlets.
Its president S.M. Mohamed Idris said at present, only supermarkets and hypermarkets were participating in the campaign.
“The state governments should be more strict,” he said.
Muslim Consumers Affairs Association chief activist Datuk Nadzim Johan said people were unwilling to change their ways as many feel it was their right to be given plastic bags.
“The campaigns are a lot of noise at the launch and nothing after that.
“It’s about the attitude, not campaigns. If they pay RM100 for groceries, do you think they will care about even paying RM1 for a plastic bag?” he asked.
He also said information was not readily available on how much companies made from the sale of plastic bags.
“This seems to suggest the profits are disappearing into the pockets of the company, and not used for social or environmental causes,” he said.
National Consumer Complaints Centre board member Mohd Shaani Abdullah said education and mindset were critical to the success of environmental campaigns.
“It’s just like cigarettes. Malaysians continue smoking even though they know it’s bad for their health and the environment but there is no will to do something about it,” he said.
Shaani said the focus should not only be on consumers as retailers had to also play an active role.
“Some retail chains see this as an opportunity to increase profits, others are just not bothered,” he said.
Fomca president Datuk Marimuthu Nadeson said there was a lack of transparency in how money from plastic bag sales was used.
“There must be auditing by the relevant ministry to make sure the money is spent properly.
“The funds are meant for social and environmental causes, not for the participating companies,” he said.
He proposed banning plastic bags as it would be more effective than making consumers pay for them.
“This will eliminate profiteering and achieve the goals of the campaign in short order.”
Malaysian Nature Society president John Koh said eight billion plastic bags are used in Malaysia and one trillion worldwide annually
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