25 February 2022
From 27 January 2022 to 17 February 2022, the National Environment Agency (“NEA”) conducted a public consultation on a proposed disposable carrier bag charge at supermarkets in Singapore.
NEA proposes for supermarket operators to stipulate a minimum charge for each disposable carrier bag provided at supermarkets and for the mandatory disposable carrier bag charge at supermarkets to take effect by the first half of 2023. This will help contribute towards the objective in the Singapore Green Plan 2030 to reduce the amount of waste to landfill per capita per day by 20% by 2026, while providing sufficient time for the industry to prepare for implementation.
In September 2020, the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (“MSE”) and NEA convened a Citizens’ Workgroup to co-create solutions to reduce excessive consumption of disposables. 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.
In Singapore, many retailers have already begun to charge for disposable carrier bags. Some supermarkets have also either started bag charge trials or have already implemented charging for disposable carrier bags. NEA also notes strong public support for these voluntary initiatives generally, due to a growing awareness of the need and desire to curb excessive consumption of disposable carrier bags.
Disposable carrier bag charge at supermarkets
It is stated in the consultation paper that 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. Initially, 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.
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
NEA sought feedback on the following aspects of the proposal on the disposable carrier bag charge:
- Charging model: NEA proposes for supermarket operators to stipulate a minimum charge for each disposable carrier bag provided (i.e. charge per bag) at supermarkets. NEA states that 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. Among the local retailers that have voluntarily started charging for disposable carrier bags, NEA is aware of a few that charge bags on a per-transaction basis and notes that such a per-transaction model may encourage shoppers to take more bags than they need.
- Charging amount: NEA proposes a minimum charge of 5 to 10 cents per bag and explains that this 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.
- Coverage of supermarket operators: NEA proposes to subject supermarket operators with annual revenue that is above a stipulated threshold to the requirements of charging for bags at their outlets. The threshold stipulated should cover a majority of supermarkets in Singapore.
- Whether to apply bag the charge to online purchases: NEA proposes 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.
- Tracking and reporting of information: NEA proposes to require supermarket operators 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.