National Environment Agency
National Environment Agency - Environmental Protection Policy Department
Consultation Period:
27 Jan 2022 - 17 Feb 2022
Status:
Closed

Detailed Description

Public Consultation on Disposable Carrier Bag Charge at Supermarkets

Aim

1 The National Environment Agency (NEA) is inviting members of the public to provide feedback on the proposed disposable carrier bag charge at supermarkets in Singapore.

Background

2 In 2019 and 2020, households and trade premises in Singapore threw away about 200,000 tonnes of disposables annually, which is enough to fill up about 400 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Of this, about two-thirds were disposable bags. A 2018 study by the Singapore Environment Council also found that shoppers take 820 million disposable carrier bags from supermarkets alone a year, translating to an average of 146 bags per person. 

3 NEA had previously commissioned a life-cycle assessment study on carrier bags and food packaging in Singapore’s context. The study found that disposables, regardless of whether they are made of paper, plastics, or biodegradable plastics, impact the environment when they are produced, transported, and disposed of. Curbing their excessive consumption will help to reduce Singapore’s carbon emissions when they are incinerated in our waste-to-energy plants, conserve natural resources and reduce waste sent to the Semakau Landfill. 

4 To co-create solutions to reduce excessive consumption of disposables, the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) convened a Citizens’ Workgroup in September 2020, comprising 55 members of the public from diverse backgrounds. One of the Workgroup's key recommendations is a charge for disposable carrier bags at supermarkets. In MSE and NEA’s response to the recommendations, MSE and NEA agreed to develop an appropriate charging model for a disposable carrier bag charge at supermarkets. 

5 Over 150 countries and jurisdictions, including some states in Malaysia, have already implemented or will be implementing a charge or ban on disposable carrier bags or single-use plastic bags. In Hong Kong, the Netherlands, and Taiwan, a plastic bag charge resulted in about 80%, 70%, and 60% decrease respectively in the number of plastic bags given out. A disposable bag charge in the United Kingdom achieved between 70 to 95% reduction in the number of disposable bags used. About 70% of Japanese shoppers refused plastic bags after a charge was imposed in Japan.

6 In Singapore, many retailers  have already begun to charge for disposable carrier bags. Some supermarkets such as NTUC FairPrice, Don Don Donki, and Little Farms have also either started bag charge trials or have already implemented charging for disposable carrier bags. There is generally strong public support for these voluntary initiatives due to a growing awareness of the need to, and desire to curb excessive consumption of disposable carrier bags.

Disposable Carrier Bag Charge at Supermarkets

7 In response to the Citizens’ Workgroup’s recommendation, the Government proposes to make it a legal requirement by the first half of 2023 for large supermarket operators to charge for disposable carrier bags issued at their checkout counters, regardless of the type of material used for the bag. For a start, it will not be mandatory to charge for disposable carrier bags at other types of retail stores other than the large supermarkets. Nonetheless, NEA will continue to encourage retail stores which have already introduced voluntary carrier bag charges to continue to do so, and others which have yet to introduce a carrier bag charge to consider similar charges. 

8 A disposable carrier bag refers to a bag that has handles that allow the bag to be carried. Bags without handles, such as those used to bag loose quantities of fresh or raw food (e.g. fruits, vegetables, meat, and seafood) that is sold without packaging, will not be covered under the mandatory charge.

Proposed Areas for Feedback

Proposed charging model

9 NEA seeks your views on the proposal for supermarket operators to stipulate a minimum charge for each disposable carrier bag provided (i.e., charge per bag) at supermarkets. Charging per bag is an equitable and effective charging model, as the amount paid will be proportional to the number of disposable carrier bags taken. Stipulating a minimum charge, as opposed to a standard charge, also provides flexibility to supermarket operators who may wish to charge a higher amount.

10 Among the local retailers that have voluntarily started charging for disposable carrier bags, we are aware of a few that charge bags on a per-transaction basis. This means that if a shopper needs disposable carrier bags, they will be charged a standard amount per transaction, regardless of how many bags they need. However, such a per-transaction model may encourage shoppers to take more bags than they need. The per-bag charging model is also adopted by most, if not all, other countries or cities in the world that charge for disposable bags.

Proposed charging amount

11 NEA seeks your views on a proposed minimum charge of 5 to 10 cents per bag. Such a nudge strikes a balance between encouraging shoppers to reduce the number of disposable carrier bags they take and minimising the cost impact on shoppers who make large purchases and lower-income households. 

Proposed coverage of supermarket operators

12 NEA seeks your views on the proposal to subject supermarket operators with annual revenue that is above a stipulated threshold to the requirements of charging for bags at their outlets . This means that the supermarket operators with revenues above a certain threshold would have to comply with the legislative requirements, but not small supermarket operators whose revenues fall below the threshold. The threshold stipulated should cover a majority of supermarkets in Singapore.

Whether to apply bag the charge to online purchases

13 NEA seeks your views on the proposal not to apply the disposable carrier bag charge to online grocery purchases. As customers do not have the option of using their own bags for online grocery purchases, and have little say on the number of bags used to package their purchases, no charge is proposed for such purchases. MSE and NEA will continue to study how best to address packaging waste from e-commerce in general, including from online grocery shopping.

Proposed tracking and reporting of information

14 NEA seeks your views on the proposal for supermarket operators to be required to track and publicly disclose information on the number of bags they issue, the amount of charge proceeds they collect, and how they use the charge proceeds. 

Proposed implementation period

15 NEA seeks your views on the proposal that the mandatory disposable carrier bag charge at supermarkets takes effect by the first half of 2023. This will help contribute towards our objective in the Singapore Green Plan 2030 to reduce the amount of waste to landfill per capita per day by 20 per cent by 2026, while providing  sufficient time for the industry to prepare for implementation.

Summary of proposed details for feedback

 Detail of Policy  Proposal 
 Charging model  Charge per bag
 Charging amount  Minimum charge of 5 to 10 cents per bag
 Coverage of supermarket operators  Supermarket operators with annual revenue above a stipulated threshold
 Whether to apply charge to online purchases  In-store purchases at supermarket outlets covered; online grocery shopping not covered 
 Tracking and reporting of information  Supermarket operators must track and publicly disclose the number of bags they issue, the amount of charge proceeds they collect, and how they use the charge proceeds
 Implementation period  By first half of 2023


Providing Feedback


16 We invite the public to share your views on the proposals with us.

17 After the consultation closes on 17 February 2022, we will publish a summary of the feedback received and our responses on this website, when ready.