Since 3 July 2023, larger supermarket operators with annual turnover of more than $100 million are required to charge at least five cents for each disposable carrier bag provided at their SFA-licensed supermarkets. The charge applies to disposable carrier bags of all material types.
The charge prompts us to consider how many bags we really need. It is intended to nudge us to bring our own reusable bags and reduce the use of disposables.
Whether they are made of paper, plastics, or biodegradable materials, disposables have an impact on our environment during their production, transportation, and disposal. The consumption of disposables generates waste and carbon emissions, worsening the climate crisis.
The disposable carrier bag charge is an important step in our journey towards a Zero Waste Nation. It forms part of our efforts to reduce packaging waste, a priority waste stream under the Zero Waste Masterplan.
We can all do our part to live more sustainably, reduce waste, and conserve resources to safeguard our environment for future generations.
SFA-licensed supermarket outlets of supermarket operators with company-level annual turnover of more than $100 million are covered.
The supermarket operators and their retail brands with SFA-licensed supermarket outlets covered by the disposable carrier bag charge are listed below.
| Retail brands with SFA-licensed supermarket outlets
| Ang Mo Supermarket
(operated by Ang Mo Supermarket Pte Ltd)
| Cold Storage, CS Fresh, Giant, Jasons Deli
(operated by Cold Storage Singapore (1983) Pte Ltd)
| Don Don Donki
(operated by Pan Pacific Retail Management (Singapore) Pte Ltd)
| FairPrice, FairPrice Finest, FairPrice Xtra, Finest Gourmet
(operated by NTUC FairPrice Co-Operative Ltd)
| FairPrice Xpress
(operated by Cheers Holdings (2004) Pte Ltd)
| Hao Mart, Hao Eccellente
(operated by Hao Mart Pte Ltd)
| Phoon Huat, Redman by Phoon Huat
(operated by Phoon Huat Pte Ltd)
| Prime Supermarket
(operated by Prime Supermarket (1996) Pte Ltd, Prime Supermarket Limited)
| Sheng Siong
(operated by Sheng Siong Supermarket Pte Ltd)
As part of NEA's efforts to promote awareness of the charge, outlets that are required to charge for bags will display the following posters and checkout stickers.
1. Why are some stores charging for disposable carrier bags before 3 July 2023?
Some retailers, including some supermarkets, have already been charging for disposable carrier bags on their own accord as part of their sustainability initiatives.
The mandatory bag charge covers large supermarket operators and requires that they charge at least 5c per bag. This covers around 400 outlets or two-thirds of all SFA-licensed supermarket outlets in Singapore.
2. Why is it a per-bag charge and not a per-transaction charge?
A per-bag charge is fairer and more effective as it is based on the number of bags taken. The fewer bags we take, the less we pay. On the other hand, a per-transaction charge may inadvertently encourage overconsumption as shoppers might take more bags than they need.
3. Why is the minimum charge set at 5c per bag, and not higher?
We need to strike a careful balance between creating an effective behavioural nudge and managing the cost impact on households.
We have therefore set the minimum bag charge at 5 cents per bag. Most obligated supermarket operators are charging 5 cents per bag.
4. Are bags used for home delivery of in-store purchases subject to the mandatory charge?
Yes, they are subject to the mandatory charge. This is because shoppers have the choice of bringing their own bags to pack their items in store for home delivery.
5. Are bags used for scan-and-go purchases subject to the mandatory charge?
Yes, they are subject to the mandatory charge. This is because shoppers have the choice of bringing their own bags to pack their items in store.
6. Are bags used for delivery of online supermarket purchases (including click-and-collect purchases) subject to the mandatory charge?
No, they are not subject to the mandatory charge. In-store shoppers have the choice of bringing their own bags to pack their items but for online purchases, customers do not decide how many bags are used to pack their items.
NEA will study how best to address packaging waste from e-commerce, including online grocery shopping, as we develop the Extended Producer Responsibility scheme for packaging waste.
7. How are reusable bags more environmentally friendly than disposable carrier bags?
NEA commissioned a life-cycle assessment (LCA) study on carrier bags and food packaging in Singapore’s context, where the environmental impacts of products were compared across their life cycle. The study found that over a year, an average family that buys groceries weekly would save about 1,248 single-use plastic bags by switching to reusable bags for their groceries.
Based on the study, reusable bags were found to be the most environmentally friendly option.
Disposable plastic bags had the biggest environmental impact in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and energy use, while the production of paper bags consumed large amounts of water.
Plant-based biodegradable bags such as polylactic acid (PLA) bags and corn starch bags entail large tracts of forest land being converted into farmland and large amounts of water being consumed.
Further details on the LCA study can be found here.
8. Shouldn’t we encourage or mandate supermarket operators to switch from plastic bags to biodegradable plastic or paper bags?
Switching out plastic for other materials would not cause us to change our consumption habits or reduce usage.
Other countries that directly landfill their waste may prefer biodegradable materials, such as paper and biodegradable plastics, to plastics, which persist in the environment for many years. However, biodegradable materials do not offer the same incremental benefit in Singapore, as we do not landfill our waste directly. Incinerable waste that is not recycled is properly disposed of at waste-to-energy plants.
Moreover, all disposables, regardless of material, have an impact on the environment during their production, transportation, and disposal; involve the use of limited resources such as water and land; and contribute to global warming.
Therefore, a more sustainable approach is to reduce the use of all types of disposable carrier bags and to bring your own bag where possible.
9. Will the bag charge be extended to other retailers?
Many retail stores that are not covered under the mandatory charge are already charging for disposable carrier bags to reduce their usage.
The disposable carrier bag charge at covered supermarket outlets will further encourage everyone to reduce their use of disposable carrier bags and bring their own bags. We will monitor the effectiveness of the bag charge and assess the need to expand coverage in future.
10. Many people use plastic bags from the supermarket to bag their waste for disposal. Won’t the charge result in improper disposal of waste?
The disposable carrier bag charge is not a ban. Disposable bags will still be available. We should continue the responsible practice of bagging waste before disposal.
As we adjust our habits to use fewer disposable carrier bags, we can consider alternatives for bagging waste, such as repurposing packaging from the products we purchase. We can also look at reducing the amount of waste we dispose of, and recycling right and more, so that we need fewer disposable bags for waste disposal.
11. What else is the government doing to reduce disposables and packaging waste?
The disposable carrier bag charge is part of our efforts to reduce disposables and packaging waste. These efforts range from enhancing public education and awareness, to behavioural nudges, to working with producers and retailers to use less packaging upstream. Initiatives include NEA’s nation-wide ‘Say YES to Waste Less’ campaign as well as the Mandatory Packaging Reporting scheme, which are paving the way for an Extended Producer Responsibility scheme for packaging waste.
This page is updated as of 24 Jul 2023.