This is it, Malaysians! Instead of the previous plastic-free Saturdays, the ban on plastic bags and polystyrene food containers is currently in full effect.

In an effort to curb rampant littering and to tackle environmental issues like global warming, the Selangor government believes that change can only occur when “every level of society gets involved in the effort”. But as you may already be experiencing now, old habits die hard.

plastic
Source: Selangor Bebas Plastik

Despite the plastic bags ban, shoppers can still purchase single-use plastic bags for a minimum charge of 20 cents each. State Green Technology, Environment, Tourism and Consumer Affairs committee chairman Elizabeth Wong also announced that charges will be waived for certain goods such as raw meat, and plants or roots covered in sand or soil, flowers, unwrapped loose seeds, and live fish or aquatic products.

Note: Penang was the first to get the ball rolling by introducing the no-plastic ban, followed by Malacca, Johor, and Shah Alam.

According to state surveys, 71% of Selangor residents believe that plastic-free Saturdays are not enough and over 90% are aware that plastic bags are harmful to the environment. To solidify this new rule, Wong stated that “local council by-laws have been revised to support this policy and retailers must agree to go plastic-free when applying for or renewing their licences.”

The "Plastic Bag Monster"
Source: Reuters/Francois Lenoir

There has been an ongoing debate to the plastic bag ban but one thing remains clear when you compare the advantages and disadvantages of this implementation: there really isn’t a solid reason to oppose this ban. Let’s look at the pros and cons of plastic usage.

The Pros:

  • Convenient
  • Durable & can be used more than once
  • Requires less energy to produce than alternatives
  • Less energy to recycle compared to paper
  • Weights lighter than alternatives (used less fuel during transportation)

The Cons:

  • Non-renewable resource (made from petroleum)
  • A single plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to degrade
  • Plastic bags remain toxic even after they break down
  • Pollutes lakes, rivers, streams, and oceans when discarded irresponsibly
  • Results in the death of numerous marine animals and sea life every year

As Green Living Guide points out, plastics aren’t entirely evil as they were created with good intentions to help us in our daily lives. However, it is our irresponsible disposal of plastic bags that causes harm to Mother Earth. Paper, if disposed improperly, will eventually decompose by itself. Plastic, on the other hand, will not.

alternatives-of-plastic-bags-by-green-yatra
Source: Green Yatra

Whether we like to admit it or not, plastic bags have become an essential part of our everyday lives, including our visits to the supermarket or during our travel trips. Now that the ban is in place, it’s time for the public to consider a few eco-friendly alternatives moving forward.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Canvas – Not only do canvas bags come in various sizes, they’re also durable (thanks to the thickness of material).
  2. Denim – Tear-resistant and durable, it’s time to reuse your old or worn out jeans.
  3. Jute – Known for their fashionable designs, jute bags can be carried to work, grocery shop, or even the beach.
  4. Paper – While paper bags aren’t exactly strong, they make an excellent alternative if you’re carrying something light.
  5. Water hyacinth – If you have a preference for handmade and vintage goods, opt for water hyacinth bags.
plastic shopping bag
Source: Distractify

As expected, many of the common folks are still wondering how to cope with the new ban. The most common concern is having to remember to bring your re-usable bags when you walk out the house. The good news: there are plenty of options to help you adjust to the change. It’ll just require a little effort on your part.

Here are some helpful tips to assist you in view of the plastic bag ban:

  1. Stock up various-sized reusable bags for routine use.
  2. Store the bags in your vehicle. A side door panel is great place to store them in case you’re forgetful.
  3. Or, write the shopping bag on your shopping list.
  4. Instil the habit of returning the bags to your car immediately after unloading your groceries.
  5. Place additional bags in locations you may pass when going out of the house (e.g. pantry, shoe storage, umbrella stand).
  6. Select certain bags for groceries (e.g. fruits and veggies, dry goods, and frozen foods).
  7. Keep separate bags for meats as they tend to leak.
  8. Choose bags that can be stuffed into pocket-sized bundles. These bags are convenient when you un-expectantly find something you’d like to buy.
  9. Make it a point to wash your bags occasionally.
  10. Use no bags if you’re only buying an item or 2.
DIY-shopping-bags-grocery-bags1
Source: Mendez Manor

Hopefully these 10 tips will lessen your burden and make your experience a simpler process!

Sources: Times of India, Green Living Guide, Patch, Sacrement Press.