Plastic products were admired when they were first commercially available. But today, they are among the greatest pollutants on the planet. You can help to reduce waste and save the environment.
Compared to life 30 years ago, humans have become huge polluters of the environment. What has happened to the brown kraft bags we used to hold foodstuffs with? The large ones with red letterings and red and white string to carry the load are biodegradable.
Instead, plastic carriers have taken over and they eventually end up in our rivers and oceans to suffocate the water animals large and small. Crude oil has made plastics very economical to produce and such products are the main culprits of our polluted environment.
When one goes to a fast food chain or coffee houses such as Starbucks, one ends up with plastic plates, cups, and straws which take a long time to break down naturally.
Disposable diapers are another source of pollution. Of course, modern working parents have no time to dry the cloth diapers and they are prepared to spend a percentage of their disposable income on such disposables.
Look at the milk and juice in containers that we buy from the supermarket. Together with plastic water bottles, they clog up our seas and rivers. Soda drink cans have taken the place of glass bottles. Though the aluminium is recyclable, many of them end up in the garbage heap. It is time for the authorities to insist that say, five cents, is priced into each can or bottle and this is redeemable from the shops when the containers are returned. This system has been used successfully in many countries but Singapore prefers to put a deposit on trays at hawker centres instead.
Old vehicle tyres are another main source of pollution. When left in the open, they provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes. They can be recycled to be used as asphalt for paving roads.
Then there are old newspapers. Nowadays, since the price offered by recyclers is so low, not many karang-guni men want to trade them in. Fortunately, many social organisations take the trouble to collect them from housing apartments as with the help of volunteers the effort produces some needed funds for their social work.
The National Environment Agency (NEA) is doing a fine job in promoting waste minimisation and recycling. It focusses on the 3R programme:
- Reduce by using only what you need;
- Reuse things for the same purpose or new purpose, for example, print on both sides of the sheet, flash reference materials during meetings on screen instead of printing them for distribution; and
- Recycle by converting waste into useful products.
Pay for Carriers
In September 2019, NTUC Fairprice began a trial run of charging customers for plastic bags at selected stores. The fee is 20 cents per transaction for the bags and the sum collected is passed on to charity. Many customers are unhappy about the move as they often reuse the bags to hold garbage before depositing them in the bin. This is a good practice as it prevents pests from messing with the garbage and reduces smell.
In Singapore, plastics are incinerated before being sent to a landfill thus reducing the likelihood of bags ending in the waterways. Fairprice is moving carefully as unsatisfied customers may patronise their competitors instead.
New Legislation to Tackle Waste
On 4 September 2013, Parliament passed the Resource Sustainability Bill. It makes it mandatory for some large producers of waste to reuse and recycle more.
The law will help Singaporeans squeeze more value from waste. This could be done through the turning incineration waste into construction material, extracting gold and precious metals from discarded electronics waste, for example.
To tackle electronic waste, the Act introduces a regulated e-waste management system, under which companies that manufacture or import regulated products for the local market will be responsible for the collection and proper treatment of their entire e-waste.
Food waste will be tackled with measures including new regulations that will make it mandatory for the owners and operators of commercial premises where large amounts of food waste is generated, such as malls and large hotels, to segregate their food waste for treatment.
It is envisaged that by 2025, some large producers of packaged products must submit packaging data, as well as plans to reduce, reuse, and recycle to the NEA.
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