Singaporeans use on average 1.6 plastic bags a day and their production uses enough petrol in a year to drive 8,555 cars around the world.
The figure of 1.6 bags per person per day is twice as many as the average Malaysian citizen uses and three times the figure for Australia.
“A lot of Singaporeans see plastic bag usage as a right, not a privilege,” said Jessica Cheam of the Eco-Business publication. “The problem is that people take far more bags than they need.”
In March the authorities said that imposing a charge or ban on single-use plastic bags or substituting them with other types of bags was unlikely to reduce the impact.
Biodegradable or paper bags may not be greener, said Dr Amy Khor, the environment and water resources minister.
“Imposing a charge or ban on disposable plastic bags and substituting them with other types of disposable bags is unlikely to improve environmental outcomes,” she said during the debate on her ministry’s budget.
Every type of disposable bag, be it degradable or paper, affects the environment, be it through carbon emissions, heavy water use or significant land clearance, she said in reference to a National Environment Agency study.
An estimated 420 tonnes of plastic bags were discarded every day last year or almost 1,000 each second.
It is estimated that globally the average plastic bag is used for 12 minutes before being discarded.
“Many of them just go into the incinerators, and worse, they end up in oceans,” said Cheam.
Last month Ho Ching, the wife of Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, shared an article on Facebook about Taiwan’s ban on plastic bags, straws and utensils by 2030.
Last year, 94 per cent of Singaporean plastic waste was not recycled and bags are estimated to constitute around 20 per cent of that total.
Shredding and recycling firm Impetus Conceptus said it recycled about 30 to 40 per cent of the bags it received because the majority were deemed contaminated.
“Food contamination, oil contamination, stuff like that,” said director Thomas Wong. “Once it’s contaminated, we’re not able to do anything else because it deteriorates the quality of the pellets. Don’t ask for a plastic bag. Bring your own bag.”
Union Packaging Industries, which supplies 30 tonnes of bags per month to Singapore’s traders, said about 20 per cent of the plastic resins are wasted because of the adjustments needed in the different stages of bag production.
Singapore’s plastic waste is not going away. Picture credit: Flickr