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An Urgent Issue Of Plastic Pollution In Singapore

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Disposable plastics are items such as plastic bags, straws, coffee stirrers, drink bottles and most food packaging. They are disposed after only one use. Singapore is known as a “throw-away nation”. A study by the Singapore Environment Council found that Singaporeans have been generating an increasing amount of plastic waste, resulting in nearly 3 billion plastic bags used yearly. Of this, the percentage of plastic waste recycled is a mere 7%.

Plastic pollution is prevalent due to the durability, relative affordability and convenience of single-use plastics. Excessive plastic waste generates a myriad of significant issues as it impacts our natural environment and economy negatively. They take up to 500 years to biodegrade and may end up in the ocean, harming aquatic animalsand birds. Moreover, there is limited land to dump plastic waste. Between 22% to 43% of plastic waste goes to landfills, taking up space that could otherwise be used for housing, business or commercial purposes. These problems will only be exacerbated if we do not reduce our single-use plastic intake. Households are a major contributor to plastic waste generation. A survey conducted by the Singapore Environment Agency found that 26% of households have more than 20 bags lying around at home.

It is apparent that a large proportion of plastics in households are still not being recycled. Analysis of current measures by various stakeholdersLocal governmental and non-governmental organisations are aware of the significance of disposable plastic waste. Various stakeholders have attempted to address the issue to different degrees of successes. Singapore uses the 3R (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) approach to minimise waste generated. Although there are adequate resources (recycling bin labels, flyers, booklet guides, posters and a mobile application for locating neighborhood recycling bins) available for individuals to impart the 3R approach, there is a lack of emphasis on enabling and empowering individuals to make a positive change in their habits. Therefore, our approach is centered on empowering individuals to lead sustainable lifestyles. A number of businesses like Bossini have implemented the “Bring Your Own Bag” (BYOB) initiative to reduce their plastic footprint. Even with such campaigns, our primary survey has shown that 75% of consumers still do not bring their own bags. As such, the success of the campaign is still limited by the extent of participation of individuals, and therefore, a change in consumer habits must be considered when engaging community efforts. NGOs play a key role in raising awareness within communities.

Ocean is an NGO which pledges to conduct ocean and coastline cleanups. Scientists have warned that plastic pollution in seas is expected to multiply by 2025. Although 4Ocean has been successful in raising the awareness of the gravity of oceanic pollution, it does not provide a long-term solution for the problem. Moreover, there is already a large emphasis on educating and promoting awareness of reducing plastic waste in Singapore. In summary, the campaigns put forth by the various stakeholders are ineffective in inducing long-term behavioural change among individuals. Thus, consumers will continue to use disposable plastic products based on their current habits.

To address the issue, a “behavioural change is necessary” so as to reduce plastic waste generated. A statement released by The Green Collective, an eco friendly store, summarises this, saying “Singaporeans are generally aware of environmental issues, though there remains a “missing gap” between awareness and action. ” Households need to develop greener habits in order for them to take concrete and long-lasting actions to alleviate the problem, thereby conferring greater success for current measures by stakeholders.

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