NGOs: Time to ban plastic bags

ENVIRONMENT groups have called for a ban on plastic bags in the sultanate.

The non-governmental organisations (NGOs) said it was time for the No Plastic Weekend campaign in major supermarkets to be turned into a daily basis.

Community Engagement Director at Green Brunei Khairunnisa Ash’ari said a much stronger move was needed to change habits among members of the public.

“Although we see more people bringing green bags to supermarkets during the weekends, it is not the same case during the weekdays.

“This clearly shows that most people only comply in bringing their own bags because supermarkets are taking part in the government initiative by not providing plastic bags,” she said in an interview.

Khairunnisa said it takes time for habits to change, and banning plastic bags would encourage people to use them less.

The Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation (JASTRE) introduced No Plastic Day in May 2010 before turning it into the No Plastic Weekend initiative in March the following year.

President of Beach Bunch Rizan Latif, believed the current No Plastic Weekend initiative was effective, but said it was time for more action to be taken.

“It is more than just an eyesore and it has its environmental impact. The use of plastic is definitely for convenience and people do not understand its dangers enough,” he said.

Rizan said the litter of plastic waste has affected the tourism industry.

“Tour operators are not bringing tourists to recreational areas and our beaches for this reason, which is litter.”

“There are a lot of problems besides the plastic bags. There is the issue of takeaways and the use of styrofoam boxes. It is another litter issue and people throw it indiscriminately in public places.”

He said styrofoam was of the “same element” as plastic bags and littering any type of plastic waste was a part of a “toxic cycle”.

The plastic breaks down into plastic granules or pebbles it re-enters nature through the earth or water, whereby animals consume it and people end up consuming it as well once they eat the meat of the animals, Rizan said.

The Beach Bunch president suggested that one chain of supermarkets could start banning plastic bags, before others follow suit.

“We could also go through the village level, and not just ban plastic bags from supermarkets, but the smaller shops throughout a village,” he said, adding that such a move would benefit tourism if communities prided themselves in being green.

“At the end of the day, it benefits everyone,” said the Beach Bunch president on banning plastic bags.

Muhammad Shavez Cheema, founder of 1stopbrunei Wildlife Club (1SB Wildlife Club), said the current No Plastic Weekend campaign was still good as it made people use less and recycle more.

“The success of it will be seen in the next two to three years and from there, we can see if there is more plastic on our land and our waters,” he said.

However, Muhammad Shavez said plastic use is still a worldwide issue, and that it should be ‘No Plastic Day’ everyday.

“It affects our turtles, dolphins, sharks and birds and these wildlife are found in Brunei and (the issue) is already happening,” said the 1SB Wildlife Club founder, noting that tourists already have a negative image of the country.

“We need to act on it. The negative image of Brunei is seen when tourists visit Kampong Ayer to see the proboscis monkeys and other places, and they see these plastic litter,” he added.

In 2010, JASTRE had said it had no immediate plans to ban plastic bags, but opted for a gradual method in reducing plastic bags use.

The department in 2012 said it planned to include Mondays as part of its No Plastic drive, but the plan has not been implemented yet.

Source: The Brunei Times