By: Norazreen binti Abd Haris
Azreen works alongside the Content Team at WWF-Singapore where she is a Communications Intern.
Shocked. Puzzled. Indifferent. Those were the reactions I saw at the Earth Hour Village as WWF’s staff and volunteers shared with the public on the impact plastics have towards the environment.
At one point, a man who had just learned more about plastics walked up to me and asked: “About 27 billion plastics are used annually. That’s the global statistic, right?”
No, that’s the amount we are using in Singapore.
Despite being heavy consumers of plastics, most of us do not seem too concerned with our habits. Why?
Out of Sight, Out of Mind?
Singapore has an efficient waste management system that makes it easy for us to get rid of our trash. What we throw into a dustbin is gone by the next day. We need to start thinking about the impact of the plastics that we throw away. Are we addressing the plastic problem by discarding them?
Convenience Over Common Sense
It is so convenient for us to use plastics that we no longer appreciate it. I once viewed plastics as a form of “disposable convenience”. After all, they are cheap, readily available and versatile. The very reasons that make plastics useful are also driving its indiscriminate use.
A news report by The Straits Times earlier this year stated that people in Singapore care about climate change. However, many do not think their actions make a difference. Do we have the same mindset when it comes to plastics? Just because the problem is bigger than us, does not mean we have no part in it.
So, what does this mean for Singapore? Will we face a plastic crisis in the future? From what I saw at Earth Hour, there may be a glimmer of hope.
About 15,000 people visited Earth Hour Village and thousands pledged to give up ‘useless’ plastics. People I spoke to were very supportive of measures to cut back on plastics. About 3 out of 4 said that they will support a tax or ban on plastic bags. Yet the question remains: Can Singapore be a plastic conscious society?
Only if we walk the talk.
Be prepared to pay – We know that implementing a tax or on plastic bags will reduce its demand. However, some of us still resist the idea. Why must we pay for something that has always been free of charge? This was a common reaction when local supermarkets discussed the possibility of charging for plastic bags.
Forget recycling – Depending on the type of plastic, not all can be recycled. These include plastic bags, polystyrene, bottle caps and lids. The best way to go green is to simply cut down on plastic use. Recycling should not be the first solution.
Support brands that do the right thing – Show that you care by supporting brands that are already cutting back on their plastics use. Or simply refuse products with excessive packaging.
Over the past weeks, I’ve made an effort to walk the talk – it hasn’t always been easy. I’d forgotten and ended up with straws in my drinks many times. But I’ve also seen the people around me change, switching to metal straws and reusable bottles instead.
This tells me that the solutions are actually available at our fingertips. If we make enough small choices, it is possible to use less plastic – and make plastic consciousness a norm here in Singapore.