Brunei nears goal of abolishing plastic bags in 2019 as national initiative enters final phase

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A shopper pushing a trolley at a department store in Tanjung Bunut. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

Waqiuddin Rajak

Brunei is edging closer towards becoming absolutely free from the use of plastic bags at supermarkets and retail stores after the government intensified its ongoing environmental drive yesterday.

The Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation (JASTRE), in a statement, announced the inclusion of Tuesday into its ‘No Plastic Bag Everyday’ initiative, making Monday now as the only day when stores are allowed to give plastic bags to shoppers.

Set to begin this week, the latest move brought Brunei closer to its goal of abolishing plastic bag usage among consumers by January 1, 2019.

The ministry plans to complete the initiative on December 31 this year by including Monday into the campaign.

The project began as a weekend initiative in 2011 as the government looked to phase out the usage of plastic bags to address environmental concerns.

The following year, Friday was added into the initiative.

Supported by 50 stores nationwide, the programme expanded to include Thursdays and Wednesdays in April and July this year respectively.

The project also aims at reducing Brunei’s production of solid waste from 1.4kg per day to 1kg by 2035.

Lack of Awareness

Participating businesses lauded the initiative’s latest progress but voiced concerns over lack of awareness among some Bruneians who have yet to embrace the change.

Kenny Liaw, Pertama Jaya Department Store Jerudong’s manager said the latest information regarding the initiative should be well-disseminated to the public to help them be more prepared in their next shopping trip.

The department store is among the first participating business when the initiative was launched in 2011.

A cashier holds up various sizes of recyclable bags at Hua Ho Department Store in Kiulap. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

“Some of the customers were not aware of this initiative and thought that we are still giving out plastic bags outside of the weekend,” said Liaw.

“Like other participating stores, we also provide our own reusable bags for $1 to $1.50, but some customers still expressed their troubles saying they only knew it the day they choose to shop with us,” he added.

“While we fully support this, we hope all the relevant stakeholders could also do something to spread this awareness and help Bruneians adjust to this change of trend.”

Echoing the same sentiment were staff members of Samima Sdn Bhd, whose customers questioned the need for the bookstore to participate in the initiative.

A manager at a local department store who opted for anonymity was also another one who agreed that shoppers lacked awareness about the initiative’s latest development.

He said due to this, some customers would end up asking for boxes instead of buying reusable shopping bags.

A cashier placing items into a recyclable bag while shopping at a department store in Tanjung Bunut. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

However, consumers who spoke to The Bruneian yesterday said they were aware of the national campaign and pledged readiness to cooperate.

Sixty-eight-year-old Mohsin Abu said he has no problem with the initiative as long as he has means to carry his items conveniently after purchase.

Hjh Hasnah Daud, 57, also did not see it as a problem as she was used to the practice while working in Australia previously.

Wani Zamani, a 19-year-old student, supported the environmental initiative, which has long been practiced by her family members.

“My family members would usually bring a small foldable reusable bag whenever they go out, thanks to them, I got used to doing the same thing. So it doesn’t really make a big difference to me,” she said.

The Bruneian