Shoppers urged to lessen plastic bag use

Supermarket outlets in the country will charge at least five cents per plastic bag starting on 3 July. Most shoppers will bring their reusable bags to avoid this extra fee. 

“Using plastic bags from the supermarket to bag my refuse is an old habit which started decades ago, when we were encouraged to use plastic bags for throwing refuse into the rubbish chute,” said 70-year-old Tan Mui San. 

Tan is accompanied by 42% of respondents in a Milieu Insight survey. Of the 500 people who were part of the survey, 67% say they will use reusables at supermarkets starting in July. Meanwhile, 25% said they are already doing it. Around 14% of respondents also said they will shop for groceries online due to the charge. 

Of the 67% of respondents who said they will bring reusable bags, more than 8 in 10 are nudged by the charge. 

“Imposing a small fee for each plastic bag is highly effective across consumer segments, irrespective of consumers’ socio-economic characteristics,” said Associate Professor Hannah Chang from the Lee Kong Chian School of Business at Singapore Management University.

That said, there will still be people who will continue using plastic bags. 

“People who purchase regularly will get desensitised to the pain of payment over time. If the payment remains minimal, they will remain desensitised,” stated Assistant Professor Charlene Chen of the Nanyang Business School at Nanyang Technological University.

“Increasing the charge is a tricky issue. It has to be a fair value. And that fair value may not be sufficient to create enough pain to nudge the change to refrain from plastic bags,” she added.

This practice has been around for years. The establishments doing it now include 7-Eleven, Watsons, Guardian, FairPrice Xpress, and 11 FairPrice supermarkets. For these small shops, the bag charges showed promising results.

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