In this section, we will be taking a closer look at one environmental behaviours/ practices in Malaysia: the reducing of use of plastic bags. We will try to categorize this environmental practices and explain its success or failures.
Reduction of Use of Plastic Bags
The reduction of the use of plastic bags can be considered a curtailment behavior as it requires the act of consuming lesser.
The move to reduce the use of plastic bags in Malaysia is a fairly recent one. The Malaysian government has set in place in many states the No Plastic Bag Day campaign where retailers are allowed to issue plastic bags for free on a given day. Penang and Sabah state governments first launched its No Plastic Bag Day in 2009. This was then followed by Selangor, the Miri (Sarawak) local council, the Sibu (Sarawak) local council and Putrajaya (Universiti Malaysia Sabah, 2011). This is probably an indication that the movement to reduce usage of plastic bags has been a fairly successful one. Let’s explore factors influencing pro environmental behavior to determine why.
In line with the No Plastic Bag Day campaign, customers who are insistent on being given plastic bags will have to pay 10 sen per plastic bag (Care2, 2010). Recently, this charge has been increased to 20 sen (The Malaysian Insider, 2011). This clearly introduces a disincentive to individuals who want to use plastic bags. Hence, this may be one factor why the No Plastic Bag Day Campaign might have been successful where consumption of plastic bags is concerned.
In Penang, free reusable bags made of cloth are given out to people for them to replace plastic bags (The Malaysian Insider, 2011). This serves as an incentive for people to reduce their use of plastic bags since free reusable bags are being issued while plastic bags now come at a cost.
Social norms are very powerful in driving pro environmental behavior, as demonstrated in the section Environmental Behaviors and Practices. And from the increasing popularity of the No Plastic Bag Day across different Malaysian states, it is possible that the reduction in consumption of plastic bags has evolved to become a social norm in Malaysia. As such, this will continue to fuel the success of the No Plastic Bag Day Campaign as people reduce their use of plastic bags in a bid to fit in where social norms are concerned.
The environmental attitudes of Malaysians play a crucial role here too. If Malaysians are not concerned about the Preservation of the environment, there may be a possible backlash when the government puts in place such an environmental policy. However, as discussed earlier in Environmental Attitudes: Malaysia, we know that it is safe to assume that Malaysians have a pro environmental attitude. As such, this will make the implementation of No Plastic Bag Day more successful as people are willing to translate their attitudes into actions.
As discussed before, having the knowledge of environmental threats and issues is important as it forms the basis of pro environmental behavior. As it was illustrated in Environmental Attitudes: Malaysia, Malaysians do have a fair bit of access to environmental knowledge through school curriculums and environmental campaigns. As such, knowledge is perhaps one underlying variable contributing to the popularity of No Plastic Bag Day in Malaysia after its initial implementation. People are obviously willing to use lesser plastic bags as they are equipped with the knowledge of the harm it can cause the environment.