Shoppers warming to bring-your-own-bag idea

SINGAPORE - Six in 10 shoppers have brought a bag from home at least once, as part of a scheme to save the environment, a survey by supermarket chain FairPrice showed on Thursday.

The poll shows customers are warming to the idea, which aims to reduce landfill. It found the typical bag-toting shopper is a woman aged 35 to 54 who does it for the environment.

Of those who have brought their own, 58 per cent said it was a regular thing while 21 per cent did so all the time.

And in an encouraging sign, 29 per cent started taking a bag to the supermarket within the past two years.

FairPrice interviewed 536 of its customers for the survey.

It said the initiative, which it introduced in 2007, helped to save seven million plastic bags last year. Those who take part save 10 cents if they spend more than $10 at the chain.

Three billion plastic bags are used a year here.

Singapore Environment Council director Jose Raymond said only a handful of retailers here had cottoned on to the bring-your-own-bag idea.

"It's up to the retailers to decide," he added. "We can push and engage them as much as possible but the decision is ultimately theirs."

Mr Raymond urged shops to train their cashiers to ask customers if they need a bag.

He said the survey results were "a good start", adding: "Hopefully this will encourage others to do the same."

In 2007, furniture chain Ikea became Singapore's first retailer to start charging for disposable plastic bags.

It stopped providing them altogether in March. Shoppers were left with two options: bring their own carrier or buy a reusable one for either 30 or 90 cents.

Last year, clothing chain Bossini started charging 10 cents per bag - which led to 80 per cent of its customers deciding not to use one at all.

Cold Storage has started telling its cashiers to ask customers if they need a bag and encourage them to bring their own. But the chain has no plans to charge for them at present, said a spokesman for its owner, Dairy Farm Singapore.

"I think customers still expect bags," she said. "They may find it inconvenient if they had to bring their own."

FairPrice's face-to-face survey also listed the top reasons some continued to rely on carrier bags from the supermarket. These included finding it troublesome to bring their own, or simply feeling too lazy.

Bank worker Amurtha Kumaran, 42, said: "Most of the reusable bags cannot contain bulky items. In the end, we still have to use the supermarket's plastic bag."

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