Thursday, June 8

The plastic bag and the ‘environmentally unconscious’


HATS off to the people of Sibu because they are making great efforts in becoming environmentally conscious. Mini marts in Sibu are going ‘plasticbagless’ with ‘plastic bag free day’ campaigns.

They’re starting to charge for plastic bags so that we can stop suffocating Mother Earth.

We use plastic bags for everything — to carry stuff; to pack stuff; to line surfaces; to dispose of rubbish; to carry more stuff that really do not need plastic bags; to store food; and to separate laundry. We have become dependent on plastic bags.

The Eye has often heard people at the cashier counters of supermarkets asking for extra plastic bags.

The Eye has even seen people tearing new plastic bags from the rolls provided at the fresh and wet produce sections of supermarkets and putting them in pockets or bags. Literally ‘tapau’ plastic bags!

Anyway, back to Sibu’s environmentally friendly campaign. Businesses in Sibu are going green. They’re encouraging shoppers to use reusable shopping bags — you know, those that look like they’re made out of rough, tough napkins or those washable ones made from lightweight canvas. If you do not have a shopping bag with you, you’ll have to pay to have your purchases put into plastic bags.

The Eye recalls shops in Kuala Lumpur (KL) were the first to start ‘no plastic bag days’. They had glamorous launching events — “get yourself a limited edition free DESIGNER shopping bag!”. They sold reusable shopping bags at check-out counters of stores in funky and trendy designs. Then they resorted back to using plastic bags that the customers did not have to pay for.

Eye wonder what happened? Why weren’t there enough people using those trendy and funky shopping bags instead of plastic bags?

“Not convenient lah! I don’t want to have to carry around shopping bags stuffed in my pocket. And I am sure that the women folk already have their handbags full of other items. Anyway we need those plastic bags we get from buying stuff to use as trash bags or for storage at home, so we ARE recycling in a sense. We don’t intentionally buy plastic bags to throw trash or to store things,” said one daily grocery hunter friend of the Eye.

Is our use of plastic bags justified? The Eye does not have verified figures, but from looking up general facts on the great World Wide Web, it is generally estimated that a trillion plastic bags are used worldwide every year and that more than four million plastic bags end up as litter each year. Most of those four million bags will take up to 1,000 years to degrade. Well, do the math and you’ll figure it out.

Then they came up with biodegradable plastic bags.

One particular store in the Kuching area uses this sort of plastic bags, and their customers do not have to pay for them. The Eye’s girlfriend said these would fall apart to “bits and pieces” after being left in storage for a couple of months. She happened to leave some of the bags in her car boot and when she reached for them one day after several months, they practically fell to bits.

Anyway, she complains that these plastic bags are not durable. Well, Eye guess that’s why they’re called biodegradable plastic bags.

Back to Sibu and ‘no plastic bag’ campaign again. Eye hopes that the campaign will be more successful as compared to the initial hype in KL. In relation to this, a national television station recently ran a poll to see if Malaysians were environmentally conscious. The poll result was rather sad. Seventy-nine per cent voted that Malaysians are NOT concerned about the environment.

Malaysians in general do not feel that they need to play a part in conserving the environment. To most, that’s the job of the government and related non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

They do not realise (or refuse to accept the fact) that they too contribute to the slow constricting death of the earth. Sadly, in order to actually get people to become more environmentally conscious, they have to be forced into environmentally friendly practices. This can only be done through enforcement and through the implementation of fines or some form of punishment.

The Eye is glad to know that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is participating in the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. Before he left, he recorded a special message on his Facebook page to mark the conference.

To view the video, just Google “najib razak video climate change”. The Eye hopes that with his participation at the conference, the Prime Minister will come back to Malaysia and scare the crap out of Malaysians with devastating facts and figures to jolt them into the ‘environmentally friendly’ mentality. In other words — implement action that can be taken to turn Malaysia into an environmentally conscious society.