Starting this week, more than 50 participating stores will add Thursday to the ‘No Plastic Bag Weekend’ initiative, as the government aims to phase out plastic bag use by 2019.

Shoppers will now have to bring reusable bags to the supermarket from Thursday to Sunday, with more stores now encouraging customers to forgo plastic bags.

During a press conference on Monday, the Ministry of Development said it will soon designate Wednesday as a ‘No Plastic Bag’ day starting in July. Tuesday will be added to the list in October, with the final weekday, Monday, added in December.

A voluntary initiative created by the government, No Plastic Bag Weekend began in 2011 with the aim of curbing the amount of plastic waste at landfills. It started off with just Saturday and Sunday designated as “no plastic bag” days, but Friday was added to the list in 2012.

It took seven years to reach this point, but we are targeting zero plastic bag usage by January next year, said Dr Nor Imtihan Hj Abdul Razak, the ministry’s permanent secretary for administration and finance.

MoD’s Dr Nor Imtihan Hj Abdul Razak announces that Thursday will be added to the ‘No Plastic Bag Weekend’ starting April 19, 2018. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/ The Scoop

The decision to add Thursday to the list was first made public during the Legislative Council (LegCo) Meeting in March.

The ministry said the move will coincide with Earth Day 2018, which falls on April 22 and carries the theme “End Plastic Pollution”.

A total of 50 stores and businesses currently participate in the initiative, including major supermarkets such as Hua Ho, Supa Save, Utama Grand and First Emporium.

Dr Nor said the number of stores has grown from 18 in 2011 to 50 in 2018, with plans to encourage smaller retail shops, restaurants and market vendors to participate in the future. 

She added that some stores had reported savings of $2,000 to $3,000 per month because they were spending less to buy plastic bags.

So far no stores have withdrawn from the initiative, with many businesses seeing it as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), said Martinah Hj Tamit, acting director of the Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation (JASTRE). 

Brunei is the highest per capita producer of waste in the region, with each person generating an average of 1.4 kg of solid waste per day. The government’s target is to reduce this figure to 1 kg by 2035.

JASTRE statistics from 2015 show that of the 189,000 tonnes of solid waste disposed every year, 16 percent is plastic.