5 questions to ask ourselves before supporting the plastic bag ban – by Fa Abdul

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They say the adverse impacts of plastic bags are undeniable. They say plastic bag piles up in landfills, blocks the drainage system, contaminates the oceans, kills marine animals and intoxicates the environment.

They say the “No Plastic Bag Day” campaign would help the environment.

But is plastic bag usage really that bad?

I hereby list 5 questions we ought to ask ourselves before supporting the ban.

1. “Why don’t the people get to vote?”

The people never asked for plastic bags in the first place. And no business was forced to offer plastic bags. The truth is, plastic bags were offered to the customers for their own convenience – but now, that convenience is being forcefully taken away just because some council members decided it was the best thing to do.

Hello, excuse me – what about the people’s voices? Don’t we have a say prior to the ban? After all, it is our convenience that is being forcefully taken away!

If we think the 2016 hiked up parking rates around Kuala Lumpur in order to curb the traffic condition should have taken into consideration the people’s opinion before its implementation, the decision to implement the “No Plastic Bag Day” should too.

2. “Is it the right thing to do?”

The thing is, everything humans do can be bad for the environment – clearing out forests, building new townships, constructing more highways, bringing in more cars, squeezing the nature to produce more energy sources.

Is it not ridiculous to single out the use of plastic bags as being evil and painted as causing the worst destruction to Mother Nature, while having nothing said about the other greater demons destroying the environment?

The people are not stupid (at least when they really try not to be) and should not be treated as such.

3. “Can plastic bag bans improve the environment?”

What do we use to replace plastic bags?

Paper bags and reusable cotton bags.

Deciding to shift from plastic bags to paper bags and cotton bags just because they are biodegradable is not a good argument. Certainly, we all know there are more things involved when we decide on what’s the best for the environment.

Studies and researches show that compared to plastic bags, paper bags are worse – they cause trees to be cut down, use more energy to be produced and more energy to be transported. In simple terms, paper bags have a higher carbon footprint than plastic. So can someone please remind me why are we opting paper bags for plastic bags?

Here’s another thing – the reusable cotton bags we carry around so proudly with the words “Environmental Friendly” isn’t good either, for it has major environmental impacts of its own.

You see, only 2.4 percent of the world’s cropland is planted with cotton – but for it to be produced, requires 24% of the global market insecticides and 11% pesticides (World Wildlife Fund reports). On top of that, every pound of cotton requires more than 5,000 gallons of water – which is far greater than any production of vegetables!

Hold on, that is not all – unlike paper and plastic, cotton is not recycled in most places in the world.

I don’t know about you, but I find it extremely odd that plastic bags are banned while paper bags and cotton bags which are far worse in affecting the environment are not only allowed, but its usage being promoted.

3. “If plastic bags are bad, why not just ban them entirely?”

It does not matter if we charge 20sen or 50sen or even RM1 for every plastic bag consumption – as long as we make them available, we are saying it is OK to use them. If plastic bags are bad for our environment, shouldn’t wet ban them entirely instead of fixing a price tag to them?

Why then are we banning smoking in public places instead of charging the smokers 20sen, 50sen or RM1 for every puff or every stick they smoke?

4. “Isn’t reusing things being environmental friendly?”

Many of us stockpile our plastic bags to be reused. Although plastic bags are often regarded as a single-use bag, more than often we reuse them for a lot of purpose – for packing food items in the fridge, organising things in our drawers, as dirty laundry bags when we travel, to pack trash and many more.

The truth is, plastic bags are one of the most reused items, yet it is the first to be targeted as non-environmental friendly.

Why is that?

5. “How much does a plastic grocery bag weigh?”

Plastic bags given out at stores and hypermarkets are made as thinly as possible. In fact, each plastic bag only weigh about quarter of an ounce.

Now, how much plastic bags do you have to use to cause a significant impact on the environment? Think la dei.

Even if you use up to ten bags a week, it is barely over 3 ounces of plastic!

How about the plastic cups, the plastic containers, the plastic spoons, the plastic straws and not forgetting the plastic bottles we use every single day? Have you ever weighed them?

The truth is, our choice of shopping bags has very little effect on the environment. If you ask me, it’s what we put into our shopping bags that really impacts the environment.