Datuk Lim Kok Boon, president of the association, said that the focus should be on the 3Rs – reduce, reuse and recycle. The use of plastic bags or polystyrene products is not a problem but their indiscriminate littering is, said Mr. Boon.
He said that the government should have awareness programmes, like the Japanese who started an anti-littering programme before having a waste management solution.
“The public and supermarket operators must be educated to reduce the number of plastic bags used,” he said. “The second part, will be to reuse, which 80% of the people are already practising by using bags as garbage liners, with the third section being the recycling of plastic bags, bottles and other products,” added Mr. Boon.
“This is an efficient way because even if plastic bags are banned, at the end of the day, people will still need them to throw away rubbish,” he said.
Mr. Boon stated that there is normal misconception that plastics do not degrade and therefore it is not good for the environment.
Studies have shown that even biodegradable products did not degrade in landfills due to its unfavourable environment, added Mr. Boon.
“The Environment Protection Agency of America, and the Australian Department of Environment, says that most things which goes into a landfill does not degrade, and if it degrades, it will cause global warming,” he added.
Malaysian Plastics Forum’s Education and Awareness chairman Ahmad Khairuddin Sha’aban said Italy, Switzerland and Austria have no landfills as practise a policy of closed economy.
“Japan started with its anti-littering campaign, followed by waste separation, and now about 90% of the waste is recycled, Mr. Sha’aban said.
“There, the government has not banned plastic bags or polystyrene as their citizens are disciplined enough not to litter,” Mr. Sha’aban said, adding that Malaysians too had developed the culture of reusing plastic bags as garbage liners.
State executive councillor Datuk Rusnah Kassim said that the state government would look at reversing the ban if MPMA’s proposal was convincing.
“It takes between 500 and 1,000 years for plastics to degrade, and we cannot leave such a problem for the next generation to witness,” said Ms. Kassim. “Even if you tell people to reduce the use of plastic bags they will not listen, so we need concrete solutions to overcome the problem,” Mr. Kassim said, adding that she was not convinced yet with the proposal.
She said that Ireland, Wales and Scotland governments had imposed a levy for each plastic bag used. “So instead of a ban, maybe the association can suggest a tax be imposed,” she added.