Businesses mull over charging for plastic bag use

CHARGING shoppers for using plastic bags is seen as an unfeasible option for commercial establishments to take.

In an interview with The Brunei Times, Martinah Hj Tamit, head of the Environmental Planning and Management Division under the Ministry of Development said that charging the use of plastic bags to customers will not deter Bruneians from continuing its usage.

“For example, if we charge 20 cents per bag, Bruneians will still be willing to pay for the plastic bags and use them when they shop,” she said.

This, she added, will result with only a limited impact towards ‘reducing waste generation in Brunei’ and ‘does not serve the purpose of reducing the amount of plastic bags or plastic waste in Brunei.’

She went on to say that however she was not ruling out the idea of its implementation in Brunei in the future.

She added that at the moment, the department’s main focus in achieving to reduce the use of plastic bags in Brunei is to continuously encourage the public to practise 3Rs (reuse, reduce, recycle) as well as participate in ‘No Plastic Bag’ weekends.

Meanwhile, General Manager of Utama Grand Superstore told The Brunei Times that they would not opt to charge their customers for plastic bags in fear that it would lead to bad business.

“Customers might start complaining if we ask them to pay for each plastic shopping bag and we might lose them afterwards,” he said.

“However, if it comes from the government, then it is alright. There is nothing we can do but just to follow suit with the policy,” he added.

He went on to say that ‘drastic measures’ from the government may be needed to discourage people from using plastic bags.

“Maybe charging shoppers with 50 cents per plastic bag would deter them from buying and using these bags again,” he said, adding that the eco-friendly policy would not work if the cost for the disposable bags is cheap.

Benedict Low, manager of superstore Hua Ho Tanjung Bunut said that it may take ‘a long time’ to see Bruneians getting used to ideas of using reusable bags instead of plastic bags on daily basis.

“Bruneians have the attitude to pay for anything if it is for their own convenience and they will continue to do that even if they have to pay for plastic bags,” he said.

He further said that should the government implements such initiative however, it can produce good results in the long run.

“Initially, people might still continue to pay and use plastic bags but overtime, they might realise they are wasting their money and start to use reusable bags more,” he said, reflecting on his observation of the ‘No Plastic Bag Weekend’ where more customers gradually started to bring their own reusable bags nowadays in comparison to the beginning of its implementation.

Musiik Tew, supervisor of Sin Kiew Hin Department Store echoed this as she believes that if customers are charged for their plastic bags when they shop, it will nurture the practice of using more of reusable bags in the future. “I think in time they will learn to bring and use reusable shopping bags instead of continuing to pay for single-use plastic bags because they will realise that it’s not just an effort to save the environment but also a cost-effective way of saving their money,” she said.

Founder of a non-governmental organisation, Green Brunei, Khairunnisa Ash’ari said that charging a minimal fee for plastic bags is commonly found in other countries.

“It may not be effective immediately (in Brunei), but regular practice will help to instill in their (Bruneians) minds on the importance of cutting down on plastic bag usage,” she said.

Source: The Brunei Times