Plastic pollution is now one of the major threats to the health of our ocean and our environment. Due to its abundancy and long lasting lifespan on earth, plastic bags and other plastic products usage has been an alarming issue globally.
Penang state started the No Free Plastic Bags since 2009 and No Single-use Plastic campaign 10 years later – 2019. In the same year, MESTECC launched the Malaysia’s Roadmap towards Zero Single-Use Plastic (2018-2030). On top of that, Penang State’s guidelines for No Free Plastic Bag campaign has been adopted by MESTECC and introduced nationally to kick start the plastic elimination journey. As a start, Mondays were No Plastic Bag day. In 2020, it has been extended from Mondays only to Tuesdays and
Meanwhile, one reusable bag a year can replace 125 single-use plastic bags. As an alternative, recycle bags are introduced and produced widely to replace plastic shopping bags and also to encourage people to bring their own reusable shopping bags. The recycle bags in the market nowadays are mostly non-woven, some are made of other materials such as fabric, hemp fibre, nylon or polypropylene.
While we are proud to have achieved in reducing the use of plastic bags, we now too have a problem where recycle bags of various materials are being over produced. Everyone jumped into the bandwagon of giving out reusable bags or paper bags as an alternative as their initiative to protect the environment has created yet another phenomenon – excess of reusable and paper bags.
All bags have environmental impacts, so it depends on the bag, how it is used, and most importantly how often it is used. Although these reusable bags are more environmental friendly and can be produced in an affordable price, they have impact on the environment as well. For example, non-woven material is actually
A type of plastic
Not biodegradable or compostable
Product of the petrochemical industry
Turns into micro plastics after degraded
Over produced and choking the market
In short, reusable bags will not be a greener alternative until they are reused many times and as frequently as intended. The environmental impact of reusable grocery bags is low only when we truly reuse the bags regularly. If we only use these bags once and end up storing them in a cabinet, it is almost the same as using a plastic bag.
New perspectives need to be brought in to the communities to educate our citizens on why we should reflect on our living habits and how we can utilise our resources for a sustainable future of our children. Let’s check out the green initiatives by other countries that can be a reference to all of us: