Humans are creatures of habit and often require some form of motivation to change their ways. As much as consumers shape the way retailers sell their products, retailers, in turn, reinforce our shopping habits—a cycle that feeds off one another. In a Singaporean context, that motivation often comes from not wanting to pay extra for a plastic bag.
It is a good thing. If money is the primary motivator for us to change our habits for the better, so be it. However, any form of change will always cause an uproar before acceptance, which is understandable for we often are not able to see the short term effects of our efforts.
But change is needed, and it’s always commendable when companies put their foot down and decide to spearhead the effort. We take a closer look at five retailers in Singapore who have decided to take the plunge to help consumers shape more eco-friendly and sustainable efforts towards consumption.
Ikea Singapore first made plastic bags chargeable in 2007 and donated close to S$550,000 to eco-education programmes by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), saving 18 million pieces of plastic bags during that period. In 2013, the Sweedish furniture 86ed the sale of disposable plastic bags altogether and strongly urged shoppers to purchase their reusable bags instead.
It is powerful that such a major retailer in Singapore recognises the need for sustainability and made practical and tangible steps to help shape their shopper’s habits. If you haven’t noticed, Ikea has stopped selling single-use plastic in stores already and plans to be “climate-positive” by 2030. This means that, on top of the existing eco-friendly efforts, our favourite meatball diner will integrate plans to package their products in renewable and recycled materials.
The Japanese aesthetic, made-in-China brand landed on our shores in 2015 and has successfully penetrated the Singaporean psyche as the go-to shop for all things cute and random. From wireless earphones to makeup and underwear, Miniso has it all.
In 2017, the cutesy lifestyle brand imposed a 10 cent charge for every plastic bag used, and within five months of implementation, Miniso has seen a 75% drop in plastic bag usage. Imagine the amount of plastic bags that have not made its way to pollute the ocean with this charge. Money does make the world go around and keep our oceans clean. Who knew that imposing an extra charge for disposable plastic bags would be such an excellent deterrent to prevent people from using them.
In December 2018, Yakult Singapore announced that it would no longer include single-use plastic straws with our favourite cultured milk drink anymore. And in true Singaporean fashion, frustration ensued—most cited that their toddlers won’t be able to consume the drink without spillage everywhere and some said that the drinking experience would never be the same.
Most lauded the decision and said that they never used the straws, to begin with. Others questioned why not make changes to the bottle and packaging as well for they are made out of plastic as well. To remove something arguably redundant is simple, but to have a complete overhaul of packaging is not trivial and Singaporeans need to understand that.
Yakult is acting upon its corporate responsibility to be more sustainable, and that effort alone should be acknowledged.
Major fast-food chain, KFC seemingly triggered a good portion of Singaporeans in June 2018 by announcing the removal of plastic straws and drink caps from their drinks. Many could not wrap their head around the concept of consuming a drink without the protection of drink lids and the convenience of a straw. KFC has estimated that the removal of straws from their outlets would reduce the use of 17.8 metric tons of single-use plastics in a year.
Of course, lids would still be provided for take-away-orders to prevent spillage from occurring during delivery or while transporting your meal home. We need to make the change we want, and I applaud KFC for being the first amongst fast-food chains for taking the lead on being the first and making an effort towards sustainability.
Hailing from Kyoto, Japan, Arabica opened its first location in Singapore at 56 Arab Street on 28 June 2019. With three locations now, it’s safe to say that with good coffee and even better aesthetics, Arabica is Singaporean’s newest favourite hip coffee joint.
What’s great about this Japanese coffee shop is that they use pasta straws. Yes, straws made out of pasta. Of course, Arabica is not perfect and still uses plastic cups for their cold drinks, but I must give credit where credit is due. If Arabica can set the standards for straws, I don’t see how bigger companies like Starbucks and McDonald’s cannot adopt this practice.
Change does not require monumental steps, it could start with removing something redundant or simply using a more eco-friendly and sustainable alternative. Yes, not providing plastic options altogether now might be inconvenient, but habits need to be cultivated for the betterment of our Earth. Sustainability is an on-going practice, just like going for a haircut to maintain a hairstyle. If we can take care of ourselves and go the extra mile to ensure we always look and feel good, I don’t see how we cannot adopt better practices to maintain our planet.