Dealing with plastic bag issue

PLASTIC waste is a global problem that is threatening our environment.

It is said more than eight million tonnes of plastic goes into the ocean each year, and if unchecked, can cut short the lives of the sea creatures like whales, turtles and sea birds. As it is, plastic bags have been found in their bellies.

Imagine, not even a tenth of the five trillion plastic bags produced each year gets recycled.

The Penang government is doing its part to deter people from using plastic bags and single use plastics. Penang is the first state in Malaysia to do so, introducing a 20 sen per plastic bag policy for shoppers if they want to purchase it at supermarkets.

Since it was introduced in 2009, a sum of RM9 million has been collected. To further deter people from using plastic bags, state Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh has once proposed the price of each plastic bag be increased from 20 sen to 50 sen at the supermarkets or hypermarkets.

In a random survey, Buletin Mutiara spoke to some of the Penang consumers. Below are their views.

  1. Ragindran Rajan, 37, Lions Club Seberang Jaya past president (Penang).

“If you look at riverside and seashore, you can find a lot of plastic materials thrown or washed up there. So, it’s a good idea to raise the price of plastic bags from 20 sen to 50 sen to make the people realise the impact of plastic waste on the environment. In the long run, they are going to destroy the environment.

“We have a lot of textile factories in Penang. They have a lot of unwanted stocks of fabric which can be recycled into fabric bags. These bags can then be given out to the public. It’s like those IKEA bags used for shopping.

“I think the state government can collaborate with the factory owners or manufacturers to produce big bags.

“Paper bags can usually be used once, unlike fabric bags. In India, you no longer find paper bags in most shops and factories. Fabric bags are durable.”


Tharmarajan a/l Rajoo, 46, Supervisor, Air Itam (Penang)

“For those who have money, raising the price of plastic bags is not an issue. But for the poor, they may not afford. Sometimes they ask for boxes to put the things they buy from the supermarket. If there has to be an increase, the price should be 30 sen, not an immediate jump to 50 sen.”


Ooi Chun Choon, 72, Retiree, Relau (Penang)

“I would rather bring along my own bag instead of paying extra for the plastic bag.

“Sometimes, some of the shoppers are unaware of the harm plastic bags can cause to the environment.”



Nurazlina Azad Khan, 42, Cobbler, Macallum Street (Penang).

“For me, this idea (to increase the price) is not effective. Okay for those who can afford but not okay for the poor. So they need to bring their own bags. I will bring a recycled bag wherever I go. I suggest everyone do the same. Now there is not enough place to throw the rubbish and plastic waste, so they need to reduce plastic usage.”


Chandra Segaran, 60, Taxi driver, Seberang Jaya

“I do agree with the 50 sen increase proposal. We have to reduce plastic usage so the upcoming generation can live in a good environment. I myself usually bring along my own recycled bag. I’m sure more people will stop using plastic bags if the price is raised to 50 sen each.”



Mat Abdul Rahim, 79, Taxi driver, Free School

“The people here are generally poor. I think they should not increase it any more. Personally, I don’t think this is a good idea. I bring my own recycled bags when I go shopping.”




Ng Kan Weng, 83, Retiree, Macalister Road (Penang)

“I always use a recycled bag. I feel a 50 sen increase is too steep. This idea will affect the consumers as well as business people. Nowadays, people tend to throw plastic bags into the river water until it gets dirty. There is no doubt that if plastic usage is reduced, the environment gets cleaner.”


Tan Chiu Ping, 37, Gama customer, Paya Terubong


“Use more recycled bags if the price goes up to 50 sens. I always carry a bag with me so that I won’t have to pay extra money. It is a good idea by the state government to counter people’s addiction to plastic bags. We need to start bringing our own recycled bags. I think this will help make Penang a cleaner and greener city.




Rajaeswari a/p Thannimalai, 21, Cashier

“Fifty sen for a plastic bag is quite expensive. The rich are not affected. I think the price of 20 sen should be maintained.”

Story by J. Kirrthana

Pix by Law Suun Thing