Penang State entering ‘No Straw by Default’ era with 76% of Penangites supporting No Single-Use Plastic

Press Statement by YB Phee Boon Poh, Penang State EXCO Member for Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee Chairman cum Vice-Chairman of Penang Green Council on 14 February 2019

Penang Green Council has conducted a survey to understand the public’s perception on the implementation of the ‘ No Single-Use’ campaign in Penang. The survey targeted on 2 parties, which are the consumers and business operators. The results shown that the consumer’s vast consumption of plastic was due to its abundance and availability. Besides, plastics were given by default to consumers during their purchases as it were convenient, easily dispose and affordable to business operators.

Among the 1948 consumer respondents, 76% expressed their support whilst only less than 15% opposed. 60% of the respondents agreed that businesses should be prohibited from giving out single-use plastics by implementing the reward and penalty system when consumers bring their own containers. This is because about half of the respondents would dispose these single-use items after usage, 29.5% placed them in recycle bins and 19.6% will reuse the items.

The 231 business operators that participated in the survey includes restaurants (51.5%), food outlet/ food court (22.1%), cafe (15.6%), hotel and other types of food and beverage operators. It is apparent that though majority opted to provide single-use plastic to consumers as to its convenience, many are willing to put in effort by charging for single-use plastic, providing them only upon request and providing refill services for customers who brought their own bottles.

Studies showed that in 2010, Malaysia alone has produced 0.94 million tonnes of mismanaged plastic waste, of which 0.14 to 0.37 million tonnes may have been washed into the oceans. This has placed Malaysia as number eight internationally in mismanaged plastic waste pollution. Malaysia is the fourth largest plastic exported in ASEAN and ranked number 25 in global plastic exports in 2017.

Under the “Malaysia’s Roadmap towards Zero Single-Use Plastics 2018-2030”, single-use plastics refers to straws and carrier bags. There will be no more single-use plastics by 2030 under an ambitious plan that will see local councils imposing a ‘pollution charge’ and a ‘no straw by default’ policy. The roadmap also sees the implementation of a circular economy for recycling as well as positioning Malaysia as a leader in recycling technology and industry within the region.

Penang started off with ‘No Free Plastic Bag’ campaign in July 2009 and by 2011, we implemented ‘Every Day is No Free Plastic Bags Day’ campaign in all hypermarkets and supermarkets. This year, Penang is entering another stage of No Single-Use Plastic by kicking off the Kempen ‘Tak Nak Penyedut Minuman Plastik’ as we move forward towards a greener state and to align with Malaysia’s ambition to be single-use plastics free by 2030. Stakeholder engagements will be held throughout the month of March with awareness campaigns running for 6 months beginning April.

Plastic waste has been an imminent global issue and more nations are trying to stop its vast spreading consumption, especially single-use plastics. A report by UNEP (SINGLE-USE PLASTICS: A Roadmap for Sustainability Report, 2018) stated that in 2015, the world produced more than 400 million tonnes of plastics every year and 300 million tonnes ended up as trash. This has been an ongoing exponential growth since the 1950s. Single-use plastics generally have very short lifespan, often designed to be disposed after a short period of utilisation. It is estimated that 79% of plastic waste now sits in landfills, dumps or in the environment and only about 9% has been recycled globally. More than 60 countries have started to introduce measures to curb the use of single-use plastics. This includes China where importation of eight types of plastic scraps were banned since 2018 to protect the environment and public health.

In year 2017, Malaysians produced close to 3 million tonnes of waste. Presently, there are 150 solid waste disposal sites nationwide. With that said, 74 of these available sites are expected to reach the ends of their lifespan by 2020. In 2018, four waste disposal sites in Kedah, Negeri Sembilan, Terengganu and Kelantan have ceased operations due to the end of lifespan, bringing the total number of landfills that are no longer in operation to 165.

Malaysians use up a whopping amount of about 31 million plastic straws every day, and this amount is enough to fill up 8 school buses per day, 56 per week and 2920 per year. The State urge all eateries not to serve drinks with plastic straws by default. It will only be available upon requests for those who need predominantly young children, the sick and elderly. The straws disposed are slowly destroying our precious marine lives and soon will affect human health too. Let us all put a stop to this short-term relationship with plastic straws for a Cleaner, Greener, Safer, Healthier and Happier Penang.

Please visit here for the full survey report.

A group photo of YB Phee Boon Poh and the team from Penang Green Council during the press conference of No Straw by Default on 14th February 2019.
Penang State EXCO Member for Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee Chairman cum Vice-Chairman of Penang Green Council, YB Phee Boon Poh shared his thoughts in the Q&A session with the press media.
YB Phee Boon Poh urged for a Cleaner, Greener, Safer, Healthier and Happier Penang by putting a stop to this short-term relationship with plastic straws.
Ms Melawani Othman from Research and Policy divison of PGC presented the results of “No Single-Use Plastic Items at Food Eateries in Penang” public survey at the press conference.