Singaporeans often jump on the latest fad without first seeking to understand. The recent move to reduce single-use plastic bags is one such fad.
I say this because sustainability cannot be seen from the single dimension of reducing the usage of single-use plastic bags. This is because true sustainability requires looking at the lifecycle impact of the product on the environment. In fact, what works for one country, may not work for another.
In every product’s life cycle, there are five key stages: raw material extraction, manufacturing process, distribution, consumer use, and disposal or recycling. Unlike other countries which use landfills, Singapore incinerates our wastes. As such, researchers have reported that switching from single-use to biodegradable plastic alternatives makes no effective difference to the environment. In fact, the lifecycle environmental impact of one reusable bag has the equivalent carbon footprint of 1,000 single-use plastic bags in Singapore.
While I think it is great that Singaporeans care enough about the environment to act environmentally friendly, like much of what we adopt from the West, we would do well to contextualize and only do what makes sense for Singapore and Singaporeans. Not blindly regurgitate slogans. A quick search on the internet will show that the movement to reduce single-use plastic is not about carbon footprint, but about saving our rivers and oceans from pollution.
I have come to realize that there is no such thing as being 100% green, as literally every alternative we choose also has a carbon footprint. So for me, I will no longer focus on being green. Instead, I will be wiser and focus on being greener which means choosing holistically “greener” options.
I hope you will join me in refusing to go green, but greener.