Singapore's plastic use high, recycling effort poor: Survey

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Singapore Environment Council poll shows 820 million plastic bags are taken from supermarkets annually

Singapore uses at least 1.76 billion plastic items a year, or almost one item per person per day. But fewer than 20 per cent of these are recycled, according to the Singapore Environment Council (SEC).

The bulk of these items are plastic bags taken from supermarkets, according to an online survey the SEC conducted from last December to May this year.

The non-governmental organisation said yesterday the poll of more than 1,000 people found that 820 million plastic bags are taken yearly from supermarkets.

Only 2 per cent are recycled by consumers. Two-thirds are used for the disposal of waste.

It also found women are almost twice as likely to bring a reusable bag to the supermarket than men, and those aged 41 and older are most likely to take at least six plastic bags from the supermarket on each shopping trip.

The survey, done with the help of global consultancy Deloitte, also found that Singapore used 467 million polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles - like those that hold soft drinks - a year and 473 million plastic disposable items like takeaway containers.

The survey did not include plastic bags given out by establishments other than supermarkets.

In March, a survey of 2,000 people by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Singapore found 80 per cent would support a plastic bag levy.

Its spokesman said yesterday: "There's still a huge dark hole when it comes to the plastic bags given out by other retailers. They aren't only supermarkets, but also bubble tea shops or bakeries that give multiple plastic bags."

Deloitte's Mr Mohit Grover, acknowledging the gap, said: "We will see how we can incorporate this into future studies."

The SEC intends to launch a campaign this month to educate people to use fewer plastic items. It will team up with businesses such as NTUC FairPrice and Coca-Cola.

The campaign will involve, among other things, cashiers being trained to pack groceries more efficiently and educate customers to use fewer plastic bags.

The SEC noted that Singapore's plastic recycling rates lag far behind those of other developed countries.

The country recycled only 6 per cent of its plastic waste last year, said the National Environment Agency. In contrast, the rate in Europe is around 30 per cent.

To help improve the situation, SEC urges every person in Singapore to use one less plastic item each day.