Brunei: JASTRe calls for a plastic-free Ramadhan

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN (Borneo Bulletin/ANN) - With the use of plastic bags expected to increase as thousands of people would be thronging Ramadhan markets spread across the country for their Sungkai food takeaways, the Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation (JASTRe) under the Ministry of Development urged the public to use reusable bags instead of plastic ones to support the government’s effort to reduce plastic pollution.

The department also asked them to cooperate with the government’s ‘No Plastic Bag Day’ initiative while shopping at department and retail stores as well as market stalls.

According to JASTRe statistics, 16 per cent of the waste sent to the Sungai Paku landfill comprise plastic products.

"Plastic pollution and littering can persistently be observed around the country both on land and in water, especially in Sungai Brunei, underneath Kampong Ayer houses and Sungai Bakut areas.

"Plastic products are not easily biodegradable and they decompose into toxic compounds such as dioxins that may contaminate land.

"Plastic bags may also block drainage systems and can lead to flooding," the department said.

The ‘No Plastic Bag Weekend’ initiative was launched on March 26, 2011 initially covering Saturday and Sunday. Friday was added on February 17, 2012 and Thursday was included recently on April 19.

The remaining days will be added in phases with Wednesday tentatively to be included in July 2018, Tuesday in October 2018 and Monday in December 2018 towards realising the government’s ‘No Plastic Bag Day’ goal by 2019. The objective of the initiative is to promote the concept of 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) to minimise the volume of waste sent to the country’s landfills.

The phasing out single-use plastic bags is a global goal with over 40 countries already taking steps to reduce their usage. Examples include Bangladesh which banned the plastic products in 2002 due to severe flooding from littered plastic bags. China banned thin plastic bags prior to the 2008 Olympic Games and Bali signed several memorandums and declarations to take steps towards banning plastic bags.

Meanwhile, speaking to the Bulletin on the sidelines of the distribution of reusable bags and posters held at selected shopping centres in Tutong and Belait districts yesterday, Acting Director at the JASTRe, Martinah binti Haji Tamit said the country is seeing a reduction in the use of plastic bags.

"Since the ‘No Plastic Bag’ initiative was launched in 2011, feedbacks from several stores that participated in the campaign indicated that they have successfully reduced the cost of purchasing plastic bags during weekends. This clearly shows that the initiative is successful in reducing the use of plastic bags.

"During Ramadhan, people will be buying their Sungkai food takeaways in good quantity; there will be so many varieties of delicacies to buy, so vendors will be using a lot of plastic bags in different sizes. It will be really appreciated if members of the public can bring their own plastic bags," she said.

Martinah also highlighted the government’s aim to reduce the amount of per capita waste in the country.

"Despite seeing a reduction of waste per head, the country still occupies the highest spot in a high level of waste per head in comparison with neighbouring countries. Our data shows that despite various efforts, the level of waste per head is still at around 1.4kg per person. The initiative has been able to reduce it to around 1.3kg, so we hope we can reduce it further."
Yesterday’s plastic bag and poster handover event was held as part of the continuous initiative to reduce the use of plastic bags at department stores in the Tutong and Belait districts.

The event saw a group from JASTRe, consisting of members of the Brunei Environment Youth Envoy (Brunei EYE), led by Martinah, visiting selected stores in Tutong and Belait districts.

In the morning, among the department stores that the group visited in the Belait District included Jaya Hypermart Department Store in KB Sentral, Soon Lee Megamart Pandan 7, and Supa Save Seria. The posters were received by representatives from each of the stores.

In the afternoon, the group visited department stores in the Tutong District including Sim Kim Huat, Soon Lee Megamart, Teguh Raya Department Store and Hua Ho Department Store.

Reusable bags were distributed to customers at these department stores to further raise awareness of the extended ‘No Plastic Bag’ campaign. "Today’s event represents an opportunity to help raise awareness on the various initiatives conducted to lessen the burden on our surrounding environment, especially in terms of the use of plastic," Martinah said.

The slogan for this initiative, ‘It takes a nation to end plastic pollution’ places emphasis on the engagement of all parties, including private individuals and institutions to end plastic pollution and ensure the environment is free from pollution, as stated by Minister of Development Dato Seri Paduka Awang Haji Suhaimi bin Haji Gafar on April 19, 2018.

"The success in realising the aspiration to make Brunei Darussalam free from plastic pollution depends fully on the actions of everyone, especially the shopping centres, department stores, retail outlets and the public as consumers. If there is no awareness among us on plastic pollution, efforts undertaken by the government will not be fully successful," he said.

Also present during the distribution of reusable bags and posters were Head of Belait branch, JASTRe Dayangku Haryanti binti Pengiran Haji Petra;  Head of Tutong branch, JASTRe Hajah Suryanti Jurinah binti Haji Mohd Jumin; officers and staff from JASTRe and members of Brunei EYE.