Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Survey on plastic bag ban in Penang

April 21, 2009

PENANG will conduct a survey over the next few months before deciding on whether to ban the use of plastic bags in the state.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the state would adopt a ‘progressive approach’ to formulate a solution that was acceptable to everyone.

He said this when opening the ‘Plastic Bag: To Ban, or Not to Ban?’ public forum at the Penang Caring Complex on Sunday.

“We want to strongly emphasise the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle).

“If you only focus on recycling, you are merely minimising the problem as opposed to solving it,” he added.

“This forum is part of our efforts to get the stakeholders’ feedback before we develop a comprehensive policy that will accommodate different aspects of solid waste management including public health, cultural, environmental, economic developments as well as social capital and equity aspects in society,” he said.

Lim added that a recent check by the state on six major supermarkets and hypermarkets in Penang showed that a total of 25.2 million plastic bags were distributed last year to consumers.

“This amount doesn’t include the millions used by other retailers and hawkers.

“Tourists complain that Penang is dirty with plastic bags littering the streets, drains, rivers, beaches and sea. Hence, there is a need to take action now,” he said.

“Our local municipal councils have a recycling rate of 33% which is among the highest in the country but the state currently generates about 1,500 to 1,600 tons of waste per day.

“At this rate, we will have used up our existing landfill site soon,” he warned, adding that in 2006, solid waste management cost constituted up to 20% of the Penang Municipal Council’s revenue collection.

“This cost continues to escalate as our waste generation increases year by year. We need to find solutions to reduce our solid waste management bill,” he said, noting that plastic bags were widely used because they were “acceptable, available and affordable.”

“They are cheap, useful, and plentiful, which brings about the problem of excessive usage and injudicious dumping of an otherwise useful product,” he said.

In his presentation, Malaysian Plastics Manufacturers Association president and Malaysian Plastics Forum chairman Lim Kok Boon said plastic as a product, contributed positively to the environment and society.

“However, plastic waste, just like any other waste, must be properly managed. Banning plastic is not the answer; the 3Rs approach is,” he said.

In his closing speech, Penang Health, Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said this was the first time such a dialogue had been held.

“The issue of whether to ban the usage of plastic shopping bags is complex as it effects all levels of society.

“The state will consider all suggestions seriously and carefully,” he said, adding that the focus was now was on public awareness and educational campaign.

The five-hour dialogue saw some 200 participants resolving to support efforts to minimise the excessive usage of disposable plastic bags.

No comments: