Monday, June 29, 2009

Penang government's ban on plastic bags - a mere greenwash ?

About a month ago (May 28, 2009), the Penang Chief Minister announced the state government's plan to reduce plastic bags usage in the state. A week later, more details were given as how we can reduce plastic bags usage. Seems like a very good effort by the state government to reduce pollution and safe guard our environment. And the 'feeling good' atmosphere continued with additional statement that the state has also banned the use of polystyrene boxes and plates at all of official state functions.

But, are we missing something ???

I am not sure what more is in store but I see lack of political will and shallowness in these actions to safeguard the most important stakeholders - the environment & the people.

Why no total ban on the plastic bag usage ? What are we waiting for to happen before we can have a total ban of plastics bags ? Why only on Mondays? Why only the hypermarkets?

Seems to me like a greenwash .. it clearly shows lack of political will on the part of state government to protect our environment.

Is the state government trying to protect plastic bag manufacturers ? Lets face it. Plastic bags are detriment to environment. So why do we want to protect an industry which is detriment to the environment ??? The state government must work closely with plastics manufacturers to phase out this industry. Provide incentives for plastic bag manufacturers to switch to something which is friendly. Based on CAT principles, the state government should outline its plan to totally phase out, not only plastic bag usage in Penang, but also plastic bag manufacturing. This effort must be extended to all kinds of plastic containers especially those who has very short usage life-span such as gift and snacks wrappers as well as plastics sheets which is usually used to pack food.

Anyway, plastic bags are just one of the cause of pollution in Penang . Let's not miss the big picture. The Penang government must start to implement actions to reduce sea and river pollutions caused by the industries (do you dare to swim in Penang beaches nowadays ??) well as the air pollution caused by automobiles.

We need sustainable industries and sustainable transport !!!


Med said...

Er friend, how do you suppose a total ban will work, when there isn't an alternative... what will you put rubbish in if not a plastic bag? Malaysians do not have that mindset yet, a lot of educationa nd awareness still need to be carried out, and it takes time. We were not brought up in a culture that values consideration to our surroundings and the other parts of the ecosystem of wwhich humans are a part. Being irrational and drastic is not the way to inculcate this mindset. Your argument on 'protecting' the plastics manufacturers is not sound. It is an income generator for those involved and it brings in revenue for the country's economy when it is exported. What then will whole indusries and hundreds of thousands unemployed do? It is more crucial to do what is practical and not impose a blanket ban on all plastic bags, and at the same time, gradually phase it out, and educate the ppl at the same time. It is unreasonable to have an outright ban without taking into account the consequences of such action. Should ppl be prevented from shopping just because they don't have reusable bag handy? Right now at least they are charged money for it, which is going towards helping the poor, and knowing Penangites, they will learn quickly cos they are that kiam siap. :)

KULO said...

@Med friend,

If not total ban now, how do you suggest we progress from here?

Most people shop on weekends not Monday, so I still believe it is a very clever way of the Penang government of trying to please everyone without being truly sincere in protecting the environment.

The government also needs to sit down with the industry to work on "moving" to another viable industry. This proactive stance will be a win-win-win situation for the state government, industry players as well as the people & environment.