Paying For Plastic: Quick Poll

On July 3rd 2023 legislation mandating a charge on plastic bags in large supermarkets came into force. Over the past month, supermarkets and other retailers have implemented these changes, leaving locals with new choices to make about plastic bag use.

In this quick poll, we asked 220 locals for their perspectives on the mandatory charge, aiming to understand how plastic bag charges are perceived. We also asked how locals have practically adapted to the charges in their daily lives.A majority of respondents indicated their daily life and habits have been impacted as a result of the new mandatory plastic bag charges, with many of this number indicating that they invested in reusable bags as a result. As part of the open-ended responses to this question, respondents also raised the issue of lacking plastic bags for rubbish disposal, leading to the need for alternative bags.Slightly over half the respondents do not feel comfortable paying for plastic bags, while 33% do. We also noted that while a minority would feel embarrassed if seen using plastic rather than reusable bags at the supermarket, while a majority of 57% would not. Similarly, only a minority would confront or report someone for failing to pay for plastic bags at the self-checkout system. When asked about the impacts of the new measures, a majority of 62% believe they will have a positive or somewhat positive impact on the environment, while 28% that there will be no impact at all. Some have argued that alongside reducing the use of single-use plastics, the plastic bag charges also serve the purposes of changing mindsets and attitudes. For instance, encouraging the public to be more conscious about bringing reusable bags out or increasing negative feelings towards single-use plastics

The results of this quick poll reflect how this change might occur – albeit slowly. While only a minority of respondents seem to associate the common use of plastic bags in grocery stores with negative or embarrassed feelings, it also appears that respondents are accepting and adapting to the changes; shifting their habits to alter their lifestyles and mindsets.

While the long-term impacts of these measures will only become apparent over time, a majority of respondents seem overall positive about the potential benefits of increased environmental efforts, with a significant number being open to adopt even more changes or even charges. This also can be seen vis-à-vis perspectives on Singapore’s current environmental efforts, with a middling grade of 3 being assigned by a majority. The desire to do more might also be seen as a positive sign for how locals might be receptive to future initiatives.

However, a portion of respondents consistently indicated a negative outlook when it comes to Singapore’s environmental efforts – with 52% “not feeling comfortable” paying for plastic bags, reflecting a sense of reluctance despite taking steps to adjust to the changes. Almost 30% believed that these measures would have no impact on the environment – again suggesting a pessimistic view of environmental efforts. Identifying the root of these outlooks is therefore an important part of understanding how such views might be reshaped or taken into account when introducing or implanting policy changes. Encouraging long-term mindset change is a slow and complex process. Closely examining local perspectives on the environment therefore remains an important and equally long-term endeavor.

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