Perak U-turn on plastic bag ban upsets consumer groups

A trader sells drinks in plastic packets in Ipoh. Groups are disappointed over the state government’s move to postpone the ban of plastic bags and polystyrene containers. — Picture by Marcus Pheong
A trader sells drinks in plastic packets in Ipoh. Groups are disappointed over the state government’s move to postpone the ban of plastic bags and polystyrene containers. — Picture by Marcus Pheong

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IPOH, May 24 — The Perak government’s decision to temporarily call off the ban on polystyrene containers and plastic bags has been met with mixed reaction from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and stakeholders.

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir had announced on Monday the authorities would not be implementing the ban, scheduled to begin on June 1.

He said the ban would be rescheduled after further studies were carried out.

Perak Consumer Association president Abdul Rahman Said Alli, a staunch supporter of the ban, was disappointed with the U-turn.

“Many are aware of the dangers of plastics but they don’t care. Making plastics available only makes it easier for consumers to continue using them,” he said.

“There are alternatives available. In the past, people used to wrap items with old newspapers, and these days biodegradable bags are an option.”

Abdul Rahman said it boils down to the policy makers. 

“They can produce results if they have the will to do so,” he said.

Ipoh City Watch chairman Dr Richard Ng, who was upset with the decision, urged the state government to impose the ban. 

He said the ban could still be enforced from June 1 if it was implemented as a way to educate traders and the public. 

“Traders and businesses should have been taught about the need to ban plastics and polystyrene,” he said.

“The government can provide incentives to traders who opt not to use thick plastic bags and polystyrene containers. 

“Supermarkets and shops should start charging consumers for plastic bags. This would encourage shoppers to bring their own reusable bags.

“Money collected from buying the plastic bags can be used to support NGOs that promote recycling and waste management.” 

Dr Ng said there were more than 2,000 illegal dump sites in the state with plastic materials making up about 30 per cent of the garbage.

He said an NGO, Koperasi Alam Hijau Perak Bhd (Kohijau), had installed 35 recycling bins in various locations in Perak since last September to make recycling easier for the public.

Since then, it had collected 5,068kg of rubbish, including 1,936kg of plastic waste.

“The public must discard their mentality that they are the rate players and cleanliness is strictly the responsibility of the local government,” he said.

“The local authorities must also provide enough bins, step up their enforcement and start nabbing those who dump rubbish indiscriminately.”

However, Malaysian Plastics Manufacturers Association state chairman Johnson Phoon agreed with the postponement of the ban.

“The way to deal with the matter is by addressing the root cause first. People must change their mindset,” he said.

Phoon said the masses could learn to cut down on the usage of plastic bags and practise proper waste segregation.

“Otherwise, we will be back to square one,” he said. 

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