Let’s bring our own re-usable shopping bags!

Dear friends, do you know that effective from Dec 1, 2018, there is a No Plastic Bag Campaign involving most of the big supermarkets in Kuching city every Saturday and Sunday?

If you go shopping at these supermarkets next Saturday and Sunday and thereafter, remember to bring your own re-usable shopping bag. If you are buying a lot of things, bring a bigger bag with you. The supermarkets will be charging you 20 sen for a plastic bag.

I was caught by surprise on the morning of Dec 1 when I went shopping at my neighbourhood supermarket.

“Madam, we are not giving you a plastic bag for the things that you buy today,” the salesgirl at the checkout counter told me politely.

“If you want a plastic bag, you have to pay 20 sen,” she added.

I had not been patronising the supermarket for a few days so the news about the No Plastic Bag Campaign caught me by surprise. I did not remember seeing any posters or banners on the campaign.
Ever the reporter, I asked the girl: “Is there any notice about this campaign?”

“Yes, it is right outside there,” she replied, pointing to the entrance of the supermarkets. From what I knew, there had always been a notice board there.

Since I was buying many small things including a packet of turmeric powder, a packet of instant noodles and a small bottle of honey and had not come prepared with my own grocery bag, I had no choice but to request for a plastic bag and pay 20 sen for it.

In my opinion, 20 sen is a lot of money for a plastic bag that can accommodate a few things but not large enough that you can cram everything inside it. And nowadays, you can hardly find 20 sen, let alone 5 sen, lying on the road!

After paying for my purchases and the plastic bag, I walked out of the supermarket and quickly looked around for the so-called notice on the No Plastic Bag Campaign. And there it was – a rather small notice issued by the Kuching South City Council (MBKS).

The notice was about the size of an A3 paper and the wordings were not that big. What it said was that plastic bags were killing animals and if not properly disposed, they would cause drain blockage and produce toxic gas.

My first reaction on seeing the notice was “Why is it so small? Why didn’t MBKS or the supermarket come out with a big colourful, eye-popping or eye-catching banner or poster?”

I looked carefully at the logos of the supermarkets involved in the campaign and noticed the logo of my neighbourhood supermarket among them.

That evening, I also visited a supermarket in Padungan. Again, the salesgirl at the checkout counter informed me that it was a No Plastic Bag Day and if I wanted a plastic bag, I had to pay 20 sen for it.
Since I only bought one item – chicken parts – and I was carrying a re-usable plastic bag, I opted not to buy a plastic bag from the supermarket.

I only realised that the No Plastic Bag Campaign involved many big supermarkets in Kuching when I arrived in the office and looked at the reporters’ assignments. MBKS mayor Datuk James Chan was launching a No Plastic Bag Campaign at a supermarket in Kuching at 3pm that very day.

In his speech, he said the usage of plastic bags for grocery shopping should stop because plastic is harmful towards the environment and wildlife. He explained that the aim of the campaign was to make more members of the public aware of the negative effect of plastic onto the environment.

Chan also urged the public to bring their own grocery bags when they go shopping. I am all for the ban on single-use plastic bags and I think the No Plastic Bag Campaign in Kuching and other parts of the state is long overdue. Do you know that 10 cities and countries are already leading the way to end plastic pollution by implementing bans on single-use plastic bags?

The 10 cities and countries are Washington (DC), San Francisco (California), Seattle (Washington), Boston (Massachusetts), Karnataka (India), Kenya, Chile, United Kingdom, Australia and China.

In China, the government has banned the distribution of single-use plastic bags in grocery stores and shops around the country. Firms there face a strict fine of 10,000 yuan or roughly RM16,667 for illegal plastic bag distribution. It is estimated that there has been a 66 percent reduction in the use of plastic bags since the ban.

Do you know how much plastic ends up in our oceans? Most scientists estimate that eight million metric tons of plastic end up in our oceans each year and they are in addition to the estimated 150 million metric tons currently circulating our oceans. As plastic production and consumption continue, the figure is expected to surge further.

According to the Ocean Conservancy, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than there are fish. The conservancy also reveals that plastic has been found in more than 60 percent of all seabirds and 100 percent of the sea turtle species.

The wildlife are threatened when they ingest plastic and this plastic eventually ends up being digested by humans as well.

Recently, almost 6kg of garbage was found inside the stomach of a dead sperm whale that had beached on Kapota Island, Southeast Sulawesi. The carcass was 9.5m long and 4.37m wide.

Head of Wakatobi National Park said his team could not confirm whether the garbage was the cause of the whale’s death.

When the researchers opened the whale’s stomach, they found 115 plastic cups (750g), 19 hard plastic pieces (140g), four plastic bottles (150g), 25 plastic bags (260g), six wood splinters (740g), two rubber sandals (270g), one nylon sack (200g) and more than 1,000 pieces of plastic rope (3.2kg). The total weight of the garbage was 5.9kg.

It is distressing to read news like this. I hope that all of us can do more for Mother Earth, especially our environment, oceans and wildlife. I also hope like China, Sarawak will ban the distribution of single-use plastic bags in grocery stores and shops around the state. That will drastically reduce the use of plastic bags and promote the use of alternatives like paper bags, canvas bags, basket bags and cloth bags.

Let us start small and do our part for Mother Earth by bringing our own re-usable, environmentally friendly grocery bags when we go shopping.