Disposable bags at supermarkets to have minimum 5 cents surcharge by mid-2023

Small deposit also required for some pre-packaged drinks, which can be refunded at empty beverage container return points

Disposable carrier bags at supermarkets will soon have a minimum of five-cent surcharge each.
Disposable carrier bags at supermarkets will soon have a minimum of five-cent surcharge each. (PHOTO: Reuters/Edgar Su)

SINGAPORE — From mid-2023, large supermarket operators will be required to charge at least five cents for each disposable carrier bag to shoppers at their physical stores.

Furthermore, consumers will have to pay a small deposit for certain pre-packaged drinks, which will be refunded if they return the empty beverage containers at designated return points.

These are part of several proposed amendments to the Resource Sustainability Act tabled in Parliament on Monday (6 February). The proposed amendments seek to reduce packaging and food waste and aim to drive behavioural changes across Singapore to reduce waste and increase recycling.

Also in the Bill is a requirement for owners or operators of industrial and commercial buildings to measure and report the amount of food waste they have segregated for treatment.

According to a media release on Monday by the Ministry for Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) and the National Environment Agency (NEA), these measures will contribute towards the national targets under the Singapore Green Plan 2030 and the Zero Waste Masterplan.

They are: to reduce the amount of waste sent to the landfill per capita per day by 30 per cent, and to increase the national recycling rate to 70 per cent by 2030. The proposed measures will also help to extend the lifespan of our only landfill, Semakau Landfill.

Charge will apply to five supermarket operators

MSE said packaging waste constitutes about one-third of domestic waste disposed of, and about 60 per cent of this is plastic. In 2021, only 6 per cent of plastic waste disposed of was recycled.

Following extensive consultations, the disposable carrier bag charge requirement will apply to supermarket operators with an annual turnover of more than $100 million, covering about two-thirds of all supermarket outlets in Singapore. They are: NTUC FairPrice, Cold Storage, Giant, Sheng Siong, and Prime.

Supermarket operators with an annual turnover of less than $100 million are encouraged to voluntarily implement their own bag charges.

As for the beverage container return scheme, each beverage will likely cost 10 to 20 cents more. This deposit can be refunded in the form of cash or digital transfer when consumers return their used bottles and cans at return points, which will be set up at all supermarkets that are larger than 200 sq m.

MSE and NEA hope the scheme will encourage consumers to return empty beverage containers and increase the recycling rate of beverage containers.

"This scheme will contribute to zero waste efforts by cultivating recycling habits among Singaporeans as well as aggregating clean and high-quality recyclables," the ministry said in the media release

"By increasing the supply and quality of recyclables collected, the scheme will also support the development of Singapore’s recycling industry."

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