Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Aye to green campaign

Tuesday July 7, 2009
Aye to green campaign

THE Penang Government launched the ‘No Plastic Bags Day’ yesterday with one aim — no more free plastic bags to shoppers on Mondays.

Over 300 hypermarkets, mini-markets, departmental stores, pharmacies, pet stores and other participating stores and shops in the state pledged their support for the initiative with the objective of cutting down what the state estimates to be 2.1 million plastic bags distributed in the state each month.

Shoppers in participating outlets were charged 20 sen for each plastic bag yesterday with all proceeds directed to the state’s Partners Against Poverty Cam- paign in aid of the poor.

A visit to Sunshine Square hypermarket in Bayan Baru saw a number of administrative personnel standing by at checkout counters to provide assistance and explain to customers regarding the policy.

Periodical announcements on the green initiative were also broadcast in English, Bahasa Melayu, Mandarin and Tamil over the loudspeaker at the store.

“The policy is new, so explanation has to be done. The cashiers and officers have all been briefed on the policy so they can explain it to customers,” said Sunshine Wholesale Mart general manager Yee Kam Ming.

“Generally, the response has been good especially from foreigners from places like China who have similar policies implemented in their home countries,” he added.

Stacks and stacks of empty cardboard boxes were also seen near checkout counters.

“To start off the policy, we are offering the extra boxes for people to carry their purchases back.

“However, we hope people take well to the initiative and bring their own bags for shopping to help save the environment,” Yee said.

Large shopping chains also took the initiative to offer trendy and sturdy reusable bags to encourage people to use less plastic.

Eye-catching yellow Sunshine shopping bags were on sale at RM2.80 (in comparison to RM3.50 on days other than Mondays) at all Sunshine outlets in the state while Tesco Penang offered two attractive reusable bags — The Big Green Bag (which is blue in colour) and the Natural Green Bag made of jute.

“Our famous ‘Bag for Life’ shopping bags are also on sale for RM0.99 with a promise that they can be exchanged for new ones free of charge if they become torn or damaged,” said Tesco Penang loss prevention manager M. Bhoopalan.

Visits to several participating hypermarkets and departmental stores in the state showed that public response was quite positive to the no plastic bags policy despite a number not being aware that it had started.

“I used to have a friend who was a fisherman and he used to pick up so many plastic bags that were discarded into the sea.

“Since then, my family and I have tried to be vigilant to try and reduce the number of plastic bags we use,” said a retired businessman, who requested to be known only as Goh, 56, at Sunshine Square.

At Parkson Gurney Plaza, two siblings, who only wanted to be known as Havinash and Devesh, said they were unaware of the programme but lauded the move.

“However, it all boils down to the individual’s initiative. Whenever I go shopping, I’ll bring a big bag to dump everything in.

“If I do use a plastic bag, I’ll ask the cashier to pack everything into one bag even if I’m buying several items from different departments,” Havinash said.

Devesh said to discourage the use of plastic bags, participating outlets must stop giving out any sort of bags.

“Malaysians have a ‘tidak apa’ (don’t care) attitude. Making them pay 20 sen for a plastic bag won’t make a difference. We must not give them an option so that they will be forced to bring their own bags,” he said.

Speaking to reporters before distributing ‘No Plastic Bags Day’ pamphlets to shoppers at Pacific Komtar, Gama and Billion Sebe-rang Jaya, state Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said he was “very satisfied” with the response as this was the first time the programme was held.

“The number of participants are increasing even as we speak.

“I’ve received calls not just from retailers but even private hospitals and even a pet shop owner who wanted to participate.

“Some people may say that one day of not using plastic bags won’t make a difference but if it can get people to start thinking about the environment, then that’s something good,” he said.

Phee urged entertainment outlets and cineplexes to show their support by allowing the screening of ‘No Plastic Bags Day’ messages at their outlets.

“We have prepared a 10-second message in Bahasa Melayu, Chinese, Tamil and English for that purpose and are now working on a jingle,” he said.

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