Brunei is moving forward with its push to phase out plastic bags, with the official inclusion of Thursday to the ‘No Plastic Bag Weekend’ campaign.

Starting April 20, a total of 50 stores and businesses will no longer be providing plastic bags to customers from Thursday to Sunday, in a bid to reduce the amount of plastic waste sent to landfills. Each Bruneian produces 1.4kg of solid waste per day — the highest rate in ASEAN.

Speaking at the launch yesterday, development minister YB Dato Seri Paduka Hj Suhaimi Hj Gafar said on average, one supermarket issues 3,000 to 8,000 plastic bags on the weekend. This amounts to 144,000 to 384,000 plastic bags over a year, not counting weekdays or bags used in smaller retail shops, stalls or night markets.

The Minister of Development YB Dato Seri Paduka Hj Suhaimi Hj Gafar speaks at an event to mark the inclusion of Thursday in the ‘No Plastic Bag Weekend’ campaign. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

A 2015 survey carried out by the Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation (JASTRe) showed that 80 percent of respondents supported the ‘No Plastic Bag Weekend’ campaign, with 20 percent saying they used reusable bags on a daily basis.

The survey, conducted on 1,000 respondents at four major shopping premises, found that 62 percent of people were aware of the negative environmental effects of plastics and supported proposals to eliminate plastic bag use across the country.

The Ministry of Development said it aims to phase out plastic bag use at major supermarkets by January 2019. Wednesday will be designated 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.

The policy will also be extended to cover smaller retail shops, stalls and night markets in the coming months, however no specific timeline was given.

• 3K-8K plastic bags used every weekend at each supermarket 

• 62% of people support move to eliminate plastic bag use completely 

• 20% of people say they use reusable bags daily

Senior JASTRe officials distributed 300 reusable bags to customers at three supermarkets in Gadong yesterday, to mark the inclusion of Thursday as a ‘No Plastic Bag’ day. 

Supermarket managers said while there is some cost-saving by eliminating plastic bag use, their willingness to participate in the campaign was based on environmental benefits.

“In the beginning, a lot of people commented that we saved a lot of money, but actually we don’t,” said Cheong Hoy Loon, general manager of Utama Grand Superstore. 

“This is part of our effort to help preserve the environment and cooperate with the government.”

According to a survey conducted by the development ministry, some stores saved $2,000 to $3,000 per month from spending less on plastic bags. 

Julia Yap Siaw Tan, HR manager of Warisan Utamajaya Emporium and Supermarket, echoed Cheong’s sentiments and said the company was happy to participate in the initiative. 

She added that while many customers now bring their own reusable bags on the weekends, there are still plenty who forget, even though the campaign was launched seven years ago.

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