Singapore is a land of contradictions and one recent example of mixed messages is in relation to its environmental pursuits. Singapore has hit headlines for its drive to build solar panels at HDB estates to reduce its carbon footprint. It has also now generated news for a mixed-use development which combines office, residential and commercial space built on an eco-friendly design that could be a model for future living.
These efforts are all laudable. It is after all no secret that fears of global warming and unsustainable lifestyle habits could wreak havoc on the planet. We are already seeing signs of worrying climate change that could have far reaching effects on food production and water supplies.
Based on headlines, one would think that Singapore is a country that is dedicated to environmental efforts. What is therefore surprising is the amount of plastic waste we generate and the limited efforts made to curb this. According to reports, plastic waste per capita has risen nearly 20 percent in the last 15 years. For such a small country, we have managed to dispose a staggering 763,400 tonnes of plastic last year and our plastic recycling figures are dismal to say the least.
What has the government done to reduce this? Nothing it would appear since it has not adopted any bans or charges on plastic bags or other single use plastic items such as plastic cutlery. What is the point of spending lots of money on projects like solar panels and eco friendly architecture if it cannot even get the basics right?
While we pursue fancy projects, our Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli is saying that Singapore does not want to be a society that charges for plastic bags. Head scratch anyone? Why can't we charge for plastic bags? I would be proud to be part of a society that charges for plastic bags. I would rather pay for plastic bags than the increased electricity and water charges. At least the reduction of plastic bags would contribute to the health of the planet. Increased electrical and water prices on the other hand only contributes to the financial health of certain elites. But I disgress. The point is that Masagos does not make sense and Singapore's policy on the environment is contradictory and disjointed.
Corporations such as fast food chain KFC has already stopped providing plastic straws. Why aren't we following suit?
It just seems so silly to chase after complicated big projects when something as simple as plastic bags cannot be resolved? Is Singapore committed to being eco friendly or not?