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  The Electric New Paper 30 Apr 07
Many upset over 10 cents bag charge

Straits Times Forum 28 Apr 07
Charging for plastic bags not the solution - give scientists more time to find alternatives
Letter from Paul Chan Poh Hoi

Straits Times Forum 28 Apr 07
Live without plastic bags? Here's how it can be done
Letter from Dr Lee Siew Peng Middlesex, UK

Straits Times Forum 28 Apr 07
Plastic bags will always be around, so let's find other ways to save the Earth
Letter from Alvin Sim Khim Woon London, United Kingdom

Straits Times Forum 27 Apr 07
Campaign to discourage use of plastic bags: How they do it in Germany and the UK
Letter from Sit Amilia Khoo (Ms)

Straits Times Forum 26 Apr 07
Let's practise 'Bring your own bag day' every day
Letter from Stephen Tan Heng Chua

Straits Times Forum 26 Apr 07
San Francisco leads in plastic bag ban and other Californian cities are following
Letter from Daniel Floerke

Straits Times Forum 26 Apr 07
No plastic bags? Some will just throw rubbish down the chute
Letter from Yap Siew Pheng (Ms)

Straits Times Forum 25 Apr 07
Some suggestions on how we can achieve a plastic bag-free society

Letter from John Voon Zoon Choong

Straits Times Forum 25 Apr 07
Make it mandatory for all shops to charge for plastic bags

Letter from Claire Ban Hui Ling (Miss)

Straits Times Forum 23 Apr 07
Sending wrong message on Bring Your Own Bag
Letter from Gloria Seow Ai Woon (Ms)

Channel NewsAsia 20 Apr 07
Shoppers want to be given discounts for bringing their own bags: poll

Straits Times Forum 20 Apr 07
Charging for plastic bags not enough, supermarkets should look into alternative solutions
Letter from Lum Yew Wai

Today Online 19 Apr 07
Green alert!

About saving planet, not just saving money
Letter from Patrick Wong Fook Seng

I READ with great interest the articles on Bring Your Own Bag Day campaign.

I am sure the relevant Government agencies and participating stores have good intentions but I have my doubts that it will progress beyond being another lip-service campaign.

Wasn't there another campaign by the largest supermarket chain in Singapore to educate the public to use fewer plastic bags? That campaign came and went without much fanfare.

The problem lies as much with the business owners as it does with the customers. I have cashiers giving me a plastic bag even after I say I don't need one.

And is there a need to bag my newspaper separately when there is space in the other bags provided? Is there a need to give a bag when I buy toilet paper or a 12-can pack of soft drinks, when both are designed with packaging with built-in handles so they are easy to carry?

Big malls spend thousands of dollars to install water-saving devices--such as automated flushing systems and motion-sensitive taps--in their toilets. But where is the recycling bin when you need it most, at the food court or wherever small food kiosks are located?

It seems any devices installed are there to help save on water and electricity bills, with no thought for saving other aspects of the environment. And about those toilet cubicles with an automated flush: After I'm done there, I press the button to manually activate the flush. As I leave, the sensor kicks in and initiates another flush. Tell me, did it save or waste water?

For establishments that are guaranteed large amounts of trash daily, where are the efforts to recycle? For example, at Lau Pa Sat, where thousands eat daily, I see cleaners recycling the cans, but not the plastic cups given with each drink.

For recycling efforts to work effectively, there will be costs which will have to be borne by consumers, retailers and the Government.

Consumers should pay refundable deposits for bottles and canned drinks (as is practised in many other countries). Retailers should have a part to play in managing these recycling programmes.

The Government should step in to subsidise these programmes.

When it comes from our own pockets, we may appreciate the problem better and start to do more for our planet. We are a world-class country with a world-class government. Let's work together to make our environment world-class, too. We can be envied for our Newater--so why stop at just recycling water?

Beware the eco-profiteer
Letter from Chia Hern Keng

MR DENIS Distant brought up a good point in his letter, "But what about garbage?" (April 16).

Plastic bags provided by shops and supermarkets are actually being recycled for useful purposes like for packing garbage. Apart from that, plastic bags are also used to store things, both at home and on trips.

It is true that the number of plastic bags one gets while shopping tends to exceed such usage. However, if it becomes a widespread practice to charge for them at shops and supermarkets, many might find it more practical or economical to buy dedicated garbage bags.

We are then somewhat back to square one in terms of environmentalism.

Garbage removal companies might also start to provide eco-friendly, bio-degradable garbage bags to residents, just like the ones used for the collection of recyclable items. However, such bio-degradable bags may not be free--as someone in the recycling business told me--and you may be charged for it through your service and conservancy fees.

And just how much do such bio-degradable plastic bags cost? If they are more expensive than normal ones due to the higher manufacturing and material costs--to the point that people opt not to use them--can they be truly considered eco-friendly?

Environmentalism has actually spun off new industries that some companies may exploit to their advantage.

It is only by investigating closely the supply-chain activities, cost and benefits to end-users and the actual impact on the environment of such practices and policies that we can tell whether they are really environmentally-friendly.

Without such close examination, "eco-friendly" practices and products may well prove to be more environmentally damaging and costly to end-users.

Environmentalism thus risks being hijacked by commercial interests.

Straits Times Forum 20 Apr 07
Charging for plastic bags not enough, supermarkets should look into alternative solutions
Letter from Lum Yew Wai

I REFER to the series of online letters on April 18 on the subject of plastic bags provided by supermarkets.

Apart from the letter by Mrs Angela Banerjee, the rest are no more than mere regurgitation of the apparent - the harm to the environment from an excessive reliance on plastic bags to carry our purchases.

In her letter, 'Recycle plastic - that's what we should all do', Mrs Banerjee rightly pointed out the need to think of alternatives.

In my mind, it is the supermarkets and retail outlets which are equally guilty and which must also look into an alternative solution (such as durable and strong paper bags and cartons). After all, they are the ones pushing the goods to customers in these 'environmentally hostile' bags.

Supermarkets and outlets cannot simply wash their hands off any more responsibility nor claim that they have cleared their conscience or done their bit simply because they impose a charge for a bag, whose cost, incidentally, would have already been included in the price of their produce or products.

Their responsibility goes beyond that and they (and the National Environment Agency) should take the lead to address and provide a solution to the problem.

And from the customers' viewpoint, like it or not, if they need a bag or bags to hold their purchases, they would simply have no choice but to pay 'extra' for them.

I know I would, since I buy by the cartload and I know I am not alone in this predicament.

But, more importantly, where would that lead to as far as the campaign to save Mother Earth from the scourge of plastic? And does it make business sense, and is it right to expect of a customer, be it a single item or a cartload of supermarket products or produce he is buying, to come up with his own means to carry them away?

Furthermore, it is not as if the ubiquitous plastic bags are devoid of merits - think of its additional role when recycled to hold our food and household wastes, think of the even stronger stench and loose litter that would otherwise almost certainly pervade the entire heartland and private neighbourhoods without it.

And also, have we taken into account what the maintenance of those alternative re-usable bags would involve? They are made of synthetic fibres, have to be washed regularly for hygiene and sanitary reasons and, finally, they would have to be disposed of (most likely by incineration) when they are no longer re-usable.

NEA and all parties concerned, including the consumers, can and should get together to find some real and practical solutions to the problem. I am sure, together, we can help each other to think out of the box.

But charging for plastic bags will not make it go away anytime soon.

Channel NewsAsia 20 Apr 07
Shoppers want to be given discounts for bringing their own bags: poll

SINGAPORE: Shoppers should be given discounts for bringing their own bags on any shopping day, so as to encourage more people to use their own bags when out shopping - this is the opinion of almost 80 percent of over 1,000 people who took part in a channelnewsasia.com poll in relation to BYOBD (Bring Your Own Bag Day).

A contributor to channelnewsasia.com's forum also thought discounts would be a good move, describing it as a win-win situation since the shops could transfer the savings from not giving plastic bags away back to the shoppers.

Another forum writer going by the name Haiyaya2 suggested that shoppers be allowed to carry home the shopping baskets, and be refunded a dollar or more when they return the baskets, much like how shopping carts are managed.

The BYOBD campaign kicked off on Wednesday, 18th April, which was Earth Day, and will see the first Wednesday of every month being BYOBD.

The public response to the effort saw 100,000 plastic bags saved and just as much debate.

The week-long poll on channelnewsasia.com saw people equally divided on the option that retailers should remove all plastic bags (11 percent), and for reusable bags to be sent to each household (11 percent).

One forum poster who didn't support BYOBD said, "They presume that we will bring our own plastic bag to go shopping at their super mart, but very often I go to shop just after my work. Am I expected to bring along shopping bags to the office?"

Many also commented that plastic bags taken were often recycled anyway; being used to wrap rubbish before throwing them down the chute, thus these bags were not being wasted directly.

However, not everyone was opposed to the idea of BYOB day. Said Bbmars on the forum, " When I was in Korea a few years back, they were already paying for plastic bags... Our country is already behind in implementing this. It is a matter of getting used to bringing a bag with you."

Others called for a wider implementation of BYOB day to extend to wet markets as well, since the plastic bags used there are seldom recycled because they hold wet products.

Another suggestion on improving the BYOBD initiative was given by Alvin Nadal, who wrote into the forum with a suggestion for a wider selection of reuseable bags, as the current bag is not big enough for one week of grocery.

For those that did buy and use the reusable bags, there were no regrets taking the plunge. "I felt good about myself. Yes, it cost me 80 cents, but with this 80 cents... I did a good thing yesterday for this beautiful earth that we lived on, that supports and feed us," said Ms Chusan Koh.

Straits Times Forum 23 Apr 07
Sending wrong message on Bring Your Own Bag
Letter from Gloria Seow Ai Woon (Ms)

I WAS at FairPrice Toa Payoh last Wednesday on the inaugural Bring Your Own Bag (BYOB) Day.

A Chinese national in front of me had a couple of items to pay for and obviously needed a bag. Instead of relaying the recycling message and explaining the intent of the BYOB campaign, the cashier encouraged him to donate 10 cents to get a plastic bag for his shopping.

It was apparent she herself did not know the purpose of the BYOB campaign, and was instead trying to 'sell' FairPrice plastic bags to her customers.

Perhaps FairPrice and other supermarkets should educate their own staff first, to communicate a standard (and correct) message to consumers.

Even the sign at the cashier counter simply read, 'Donate 10 cents for a plastic bag' (or something to that effect), with no mention of the recycling message, or the purpose of the campaign - to cut down on plastic bags.

Straits Times Forum 25Apr 07
Some suggestions on how we can achieve a plastic bag-free society

Letter from John Voon Zoon Choong

WE HAVE been talking about using fewer plastic bags to help save the environment for sometime now and we have finally put words into action by declaring every first Wednesday of the month as Bring Your Own Bag day. In addition, some participating stores are also starting to charge the customers 10 cents per plastic bag.

A good start but not enough if you are hoping that it will be a stunning success eventually. In fact, I find this half-hearted effort is doomed to fail in the long run - the reason being that it is too much a hassle for affluent Singaporeans to remember to bring their reusable bags on every first Wednesday of the month in order to save a few cents.

I have some suggestions.

>>Instead of charging 10 cents, why not charge the customer $1 for the reusable bag which can be refunded if he returns it on his next shopping trip.

>>If he forgets, charge him another $1 for another reusable bag. He can also accumulate up to five bags and use them in exchange for goods bought.

>>It is more palatable for customers to pay if they know that no extra charge will be incurred at the end of the day as long as they cooperate and make the system work. The customers must also be told that the bags must be returned in good condition for reuse.

>>We can start off this scheme by getting all the major supermarkets to come together to agree that they charge the same price for each reusable bag and that they can be returned for a refund at all participating outlets.

If we can produce Newater, I have no doubt we can be equally successful in making Singapore a plastic bag-free society and in our own small way help to save the environment.

Straits Times Forum 25 Apr 07
Make it mandatory for all shops to charge for plastic bags

Letter from Claire Ban Hui Ling (Miss)

WHILE I am heartened to see that the National Environment Agency is playing a more active role, I question the effectiveness of making every first Wednesday of the month a Bring Your Own Bag day when supermarkets will charge 10 cents per bag taken.

One day out of every month is not frequent enough to impact shoppers to make a change in their grocery shopping habits.

If we recognise that global warming can result in dire humanitarian consequences such as wars and droughts, perhaps it is time to take drastic measures in the fight against global warming.

As Teo Keng Chuan and Samantha Ng Bee San have pointed out in their letters, local supermarkets are reluctant to follow Ikea's lead in charging for plastic bags.

Thus, would it not be better to pass a law making it mandatory for all shops to charge for plastic bags instead of merely leaving this decision entirely up to market players? This would effectively discourage plastic bag consumption as Singaporeans will definitely think twice about taking the bag.

I switched from taking plastic bags to bringing my own shopping bag to supermarkets out of my conviction about the environment. The transition was not only easy as it meant just remembering to bring my own bag out when I go shopping.

Most importantly, let's not forget that it does go a long way in saving the environment.

Straits Times Forum 27 Apr 07
Campaign to discourage use of plastic bags: How they do it in Germany and the UK
Letter from Sit Amilia Khoo (Ms)

I RECENTLY returned from Germany and the UK and would like to share my observations of how they tackle the plastic bag issue there.

In Germany, supermarkets charge for plastic bags but their plastic bags are durable, colourful and beautifully designed. And the bag comes without the supermarket's name. You can select the sizes of the bag you want near the payout section. Furthermore, it looks so good you would like to keep or reuse it. Huge recycling bins are placed just outside residential homes for easy access.

In the UK: For example, at Sainsburry, you pay for a durable, colourful beautiful good reusable quality plastic bag - with no name on it. After several times of using it, you can exchange it free for a new one. Other supermarkets still give free plastic bags but mostly with their supermarket names printed on them.

Huge recycling bins for cans, clear glass, coloured glass, plastic and paper bins are placed at a special spot/park and smaller bins near their homes. There is even one for garden waste. We are actually already doing our part to save the environment. At home we receive free blue and yellow plastic bags for recycling of plastic products and cans.

Straits Times Forum 26 Apr 07
Let's practise 'Bring your own bag day' every day
Letter from Stephen Tan Heng Chua

I AM heartened to see Ikea's effort to reduce the use of plastic bags in Singapore by charging for them. I wish they would charge more.

This has prompted me to compare it with the recent Bring Your Own Bag Day (BYOBD) campaign, an initiative by the National Environment Agency and supported by seven major supermarket groups in Singapore.

Although widely reported to be 'successful' and 'positively received', I wonder how effective the campaign truly is, and whether its effects can be sustained over the long term. How would one day in a month of charging for plastic bags offset the harm done by giving them out free for the rest of the 29 days?

I spoke to many people about this and was amused by their replies. An old couple said they would now shop only on non-BYOBDs. A supermarket cashier told me some customers would turn up with reusable bags and ask for groceries to be placed in plastic bags before putting them into their own bags. Another couple said they would always ask for more than the ample number of bags, otherwise they have nothing to wrap their rubbish in. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

I am sure the seven supermarket groups in total account for more plastic bags used than Ikea, going by the frequency of supermarket visits compared to a furniture store.

Why not just permanently charge for plastic bags like Ikea? When all supermarkets do that, no one outlet will have any competitive advantage over its competitors as far as free plastic bags are concerned.

For real behaviour change, I believe public education will work only if it is coupled with efforts to hit them where it hurts most - their pockets. With time, it will become a way of life.

In Singapore, where anything that is purportedly good for the people can be successfully pushed through, regardless or not with the approval of its people, I believe more can be done to reduce the use of plastic bags. How about BYOBD every day of our lives?

Straits Times Forum 26 Apr 07
San Francisco leads in plastic bag ban and other Californian cities are following
Letter from Daniel Floerke

TIME to change. Below is an article from the Economist last week.

My last trip to Cold Storage: Nine plastic bags for just 15 items. Start charging money per bag--this is done all over Europe.

Plastic gets sacked

San Francisco's environmentalists scored a victory in March, when the city's Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 to ban plastic shopping bags at big supermarkets and drug stores. The law will go into effect in six months.

An association of grocery stores opposed the ban, arguing that the alternatives are impractical: Recyclable plastic bags are uncommon and break easily, and paper bags are more expensive.

But in the end the law's supporters were more persuasive, lamenting the way plastic bags blow into trees and waterways, killing wildlife. They also argued that the ban will reduce litter and waste-disposal costs.

Since oil is used to produce the bags, the ban should cut the city's oil consumption by nearly 800,000 gallons a year.

Bans or taxes on plastic bags already exist in other countries--in Thailand and Ireland, for example, shoppers must pay for them--but San Francisco is the first American city to adopt such a law.

The ban follows various attempts to coax locals into using fewer plastic bags. Other Californian cities, such as Berkeley and Los Angeles, are now considering following San Francisco's lead.

Straits Times Forum 26 Apr 07
No plastic bags? Some will just throw rubbish down the chute
Letter from Yap Siew Pheng (Ms)

HAVING read so much on cutting down the use of plastic bags, this is what I am going to do if I am not going to get any more plastic bags for my purchases. I am going to buy my own plastic bags, bring them with me when shopping and recycle them at home as trash bags.

This makes sense because if I were to use only those shopping bags for my purchase, I will still need to buy trash bags for my refuse (or should I now simply throw them down the chute without bagging them?)

Also, sometimes I need to get things at the last minute and it doesn't make sense just to buy a shopping bag every time I need to do last-minute shopping. Hence, it makes more sense to bring my own plastic bags as these can be easily put into my handbag unlike those bulky shopping bags.

So far nobody has given any thought on whether the cleaners' jobs will be more tedious if everyone starts throwing their refuse directly into the rubbish chute.

Tell my mum that she has to buy her trash bags to bag her rubbish and this is just what she will do - throw them directly in the rubbish chute.

Straits Times Forum 28 Apr 07
Charging for plastic bags not the solution - give scientists more time to find alternatives
Letter from Paul Chan Poh Hoi

I AM amazed at the responses of so many people echoing the calls to charge for plastic bags for the sake of charging. I am more puzzled with the plea to ban the humble plastic bag, which serves us well.

If we can find equally good, strong, water-proof and economical alternatives to replace the plastic bag I would support the 'Bring Your Own Bag Day' campaign, an initiative by the National Environment Agency and supported by seven major supermarket groups in Singapore.

But I would not blindly follow the slogan and ask retailers to charge more for, or banning, the plastic bag in the name of saving the Earth.

Citing the harmful effects of plastic bags clogging waterways, killing wildlife and consuming more oil seems very persuasive to lawmakers and supermarket groups to ban its use. Why should we follow other countries to tax or ban the plastic bag if we can manage its use properly?

The issue now is how to mitigate the abuses and not the plastic bag itself.

What is more effective than banning the use of fossil fuel worldwide? If we really care about the health of mother Earth and global warming, we should ban a lot of activities that propel the progress of human race.

Shall we do this at the risk of blocking further progress in technology and stunting the advance of better research for alternatives to phase out materials that contribute to pollution to mother Earth?

Neither charging heavily for plastic bags nor bringing your own bags can help to solve the problem. Give scientists and technologists more time to find suitable alternatives before we jump the gun.

Straits Times Forum 28 Apr 07
Plastic bags will always be around, so let's find other ways to save the Earth
Letter from Alvin Sim Khim Woon London, United Kingdom

I REFER to Ms Yap Siew Pheng's letter, 'No plastic bags? Some will just throw rubbish down the chute' (Online forum, April 26).

She is making an incorrect assumption that all shops will not give out free plastic bags for purchases. Unless this becomes law, there will always be purchases that come in plastic bags - the hardware store, the hawker centre and other small independent retailers.

The reason is that unlike the bigger chains, these independent retailers cannot afford to increase their cost base by issuing biodegradable bags like Ikea, or not issue them at all as they already face intense price competition from the bigger retail chains. How they survive today is not on price, but on convenience and on the 'personal touch'.

Unless we all shop only at big retail chains, we will invariably end up with plastic bags lying around. People who throw rubbish down the chute without first bagging them tend to be socially irresponsible anyway. It seldom makes a difference to them if there are plastic bags lying around or not.

While I can understand the older generation doing that, as environmental issues have not surfaced until recently, it is surely up to us to educate and inform them.

As the environment continues to become headline news in the foreseeable future, we need to start thinking out of the box to overcome any problems we may encounter along this 'save the earth' drive. Shrugging our shoulders and exacerbating the problem is not the solution.

Straits Times Forum 28 Apr 07
Live without plastic bags? Here's how it can be done
Letter from Dr Lee Siew Peng Middlesex, UK

FROM some letters on the use of plastic bags, it appears that some Singaporeans think the world would end if they didn't get their 'free' plastic bags.

And we take our rubbish chutes for granted. Here, in the United Kingdom, where we pay more than 2,000 (S$6,060) in annual council tax (for refuse disposal, etc), I have to sort rubbish into three different types ( plastic/paper/metal/glass which can be recycled, organic rubbish which can be composted, and the rest which goes into landfill).

We also have to wheel the correct bins onto the boundary of the property the evening before 'bin day' once a week. Different bins are collected in different weeks. Wheel the wrong bin out on the wrong day or put the wrong rubbish in the wrong bin and it won't be emptied until the offending 'contamination' is removed, or suffer a fine.

What we need is a sea-change in our attitude towards plastic. It is not difficult to fold up a plastic/cloth bag to leave in one's handbag. Or why not try alternatives like a string bag?

Where we once used six to eight plastic bags for our weekly food shopping, we now put everything into four reusable. washable and biodegradable string bags.

When I plan to buy food home, I go with my tiffin carrier or other reusable containers - just like our parents used to do.

We must stop thinking in terms of the price of a plastic bag. Think instead of how much you value the earth that your children and grandchildren must live in.

There is a cost to our profligate reliance on plastic usage. When our children have to pay for it in another way, is the plastic bag really that 'cheap'? Rubbish chutes are not an inalienable right.

I am sure we can come up with an alternative. Meanwhile, if we are concerned about dirty chutes, why not buy some biodegradable plastic bags? If we look carefully there are all sorts of containers we can reuse for the chute: used, thick plastic-padded envelopes, empty cereal boxes, plasticised juice cartons (tear open the top and fill with rubbish, roll top back down and secure with rubber bands), plastic bags that come with loaves of bread, deliveries, junk mail, tissue-paper rolls, etc. If all else fails, use several layers of newspaper and secure with rubber bands.

We can live without plastic bags.

The Electric New Paper 30 Apr 07
Many upset over 10 cents bag charge

WHEN it comes to good hygiene practice, Singapore shoppers pass with flying colours. Some 90 of the 100 shoppers polled by The New Paper on Sunday said that they would bag their household refuge properly before disposal.

However, many are clueless about the green message behind the on-going Bring Your Own Bag (BYOB) Day, which will happen again on May 2.

About a third of those polled say they are not aware that the campaign aims to reduce plastic bag wastage.

This explains why many of these shoppers are upset over the 10cents-a-bag charge, thinking it is the supermarkets out to earn a profit.

Even among the many who were aware of the campaign, only nine knew that the money collected is for environmental causes.

Shoppers are also divided on the 10-cents charge, with almost half saying they would not pay. While Japanese housewife Miyoshi Yamaguchi, 40, is used to paying for plastic bags in Japan, Singaporean retiree MadamOrokrah Mohammed, 58, is unwilling to pay.

She said: 'I'm living in a new HDB flat, so we don't have individual garbage chutes. There will be a lot of complaints to our Members of Parliament. 'Without bags, how do you expect us to carry the rubbish? In pails? It'll dirty the floor.'

A shopper in her 50s, who declined to be named, found it ridiculous to pay for plastic bags since customers were already buying things from the supermarkets.

She said: 'If there is only one reusable bag, it is not practical for shoppers to mix fresh or raw food with cooked food in it. It really puts shoppers in a spot.' Ms Wendy Ong, 19, a sales consultant, said: 'We haven't been paying for it, so when we suddenly have to, it really hurts.'

Even though the campaign runs just once a month, almost half of those polled say they would still buy new plastic bags from now on.

Retiree STPoh, 64, said: 'If you have to pay for a bag, you might as well buy your own.' MadamOrokrah even said she would go to Johor Baru to shop for her groceries more often.

She said: 'People are getting upset with this pay-for-the-plastic-bag policy, so who's on the losing end? Our own supermarkets.'

For some, their solution is to simply not shop on BYOB Day. This includes Mr Louis Wee, a 21-year-old student, and MsAdeline Lim, 50, a property agent. Ms Lim, who knows that BYOB happens every first Wednesday of the month, said: 'I'll just not go shopping on Wednesdays. I don't want to keep track of which Wednesday it is.'

Additional reporting by Janice Tai, Yvonne Poon, Joan Chew, Yeh Wei Xuan, Lynette Lim

links
Bring Your Own Bag Day on the NEA website

Related articles about Singapore: plastic bags efforts to reduce use of plastic bags, issues, discussions
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