Consumers, businesses welcome Penang’s proposed ban on single-use plastics, straws

Penang will ban single-use plastic items, including plastic straws, in cafes, restaurants and hotels from January 2019. — Picture by KE Ooi
Penang will ban single-use plastic items, including plastic straws, in cafes, restaurants and hotels from January 2019. — Picture by KE Ooi

GEORGE TOWN, July 13 — Consumer, hotelier and restaurateur groups expressed support for the Penang state government’s proposed ban on single-use plastic items and plastic straws to protect the environment.

The Malaysian Association of Hotels Penang branch chairman Khoo Boo Lim said hotels were supportive of the proposal, even though it would take time to educate their guests.

“We are now looking at alternatives to straw, such as bamboo straws or serving drinks without straws,” he said.

The Penang state government is planning to impose a ban on plastic straws and single-use plastic items in restaurants, cafes and food outlets in the state from January 2019.

The state is now finalising the list of single-use plastic items to be banned and will start public consultation sessions with stakeholders on the ban soon.

Khoo said the ban must go in tandem with education, as consumers need to learn to use alternatives.

“We hope our guests can accept this, as some can complain if drinks are not served with straws,” he said.

He said if consumers fully understand the rationale behind the banning of plastic straws, it would be easier for restaurants and food outlets to implement it.

He said he has seen a guest bring her own personal metal straw to avoid using plastic straws.

He said it would be ideal if all consumers did this, but this would take education and time.

The Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Operators Association (Presma) was also fully supportive of the ban.

Presma president Ayoob Khan Muhamad Yakub said the ban should be extended to the whole country, not just Penang.

“We are aware that plastic bags are the biggest contributors to environmental pollution,” he said.

He said consumers should learn to bring their own containers to take away food and drinks.

He added that this ban was the best way to protect the environment.

“We think the restaurant business is not immediately affected by the implementation of this law. Without the use of single-use plastics, we can contribute in terms of reduction of waste,” he said.

Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce (PCCC), of which some of its members are plastic manufacturers, also agreed with this proposed ban.

Its vice-president Datuk Finn Choong said the PCCC was supportive despite having members in the plastic-manufacturing industry.

“Things change, times change, and we have to move with the changes so they (the plastic manufacturers) have to go along with the changes too,” he said.

He said PCCC will start using cups and water dispensers to reduce the use of single-use plastic items.

He said it was the right move for the state government to ban single-use plastic items as other Asian countries, such as Hong Kong, have also started this, not only Western countries.

“We are an over 60-year-old nation and we are nearing a developed nation, so the people’s mentality has to change too. And it starts by taking care of the environment for the next generation,” he said.

Even consumer group, Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP), welcomed the proposed ban.

CAP and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) president SM Mohamed Idris said this was the right way forward.

“Restaurants and food service establishments can solve the problem of plastic pollution by switching from disposable plastic to washable, reusable utensils,” he said.

For take-outs, customers should use their own utensils, he added.

He proposed that local authorities expedite these changes by banning plastic and other disposable utensils.

“Globally, an average of eight million tonnes of plastic escapes collection systems, winding up in the environment and eventually, the ocean.

“Hence, it is essential that the single-use, throwaway culture ends. The best alternative is to replace plastic products with reusable or refillable products,” he said.

He also called on the federal government to enact legislation to impose a nationwide ban on plastic straws, carrier bags, water bottles, stirrers, utensils, toothpicks, sachets, food wrap sheets, polystyrene packaging and food containers. 

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