The Shopping Bag To Have

Muji tote

By Mao Shan Wang

Recently, somewhere in the eastern tip of our island, I heard a sixtysomething woman  telling a nurse that “if you go to South Korea, you have to bring a lot of plastic bags because they charge for every single bag in the shops. How ridiculous is that?” Her surprise that plastic bags are chargeable in many cities outside our own is, well, not surprising. Singaporeans are too in love with plastic bags to part with them. Or, be aware that in many parts of the world, single-use plastic bags are no longer considered socially acceptable to ask for.

In Asia, our just-turned-54 Singapura is one of the slowest cities to discourage the use of plastic shopping bags issued by stores. Often enough, I see aunties in supermarkets bagging each purchase in individual bags and at check-out asking for more plastic bags, totally oblivious that somewhere out at sea and on land, animals are dying from the indiscriminate ingestion of disposable, one-time-use plastic bags.

Hong Kong has already impose a fee on plastic bags. It is the same in Taiwan and, as mentioned, South Korea. Where a charge is not levied, such as in Japan (charges will be introduced by 2020) and Thailand, customers are asked if they need plastic bags (some retailers, such as stores under the Mall Group, are starting a deterrent charge) before even one is issued. In these cities, people seem much more aware that excessive use of plastic carrier bags are detrimental to the environment and the animals in it.

…shoppers with the ubiquitous aluminium shopping carts request for the paid items to be bagged before placing them in the mobile baskets. Why are we so ashamed of what we buy at the supermarket that we have to have them concealed?


I often wonder why we have not adopted the habit of  bringing our own reusable bags when, say, grocery shopping. I have seen even those shoppers with the ubiquitous aluminium shopping carts request for the paid items to be bagged—or worse, double-bagged—before placing them in the mobile baskets. Could it be because the carts reveal too much their shopping? Why are they so ashamed of what they buy at the supermarket that they have to have them concealed?

In the case of the lack of popularity of the reusable bag, is it because what is available out there are too hideous to be seen with? If that is indeed the reason, consider this bag from Muji. Made of water-repellent polyethylene (a versatile polymer that is commonly used for shopping bags and even shampoo bottles), this roomy tote is simple as it is stylish. It comes in two colour: off-white and royal blue. I prefer the latter if only because it is more dirt-proof that the former.

The tote comes with two lengths of handles—one that you can hold in your hand, and a longer pair that allows you to carry the bag on your shoulders. Few reusable shopping bags are more versatile than this. Using it (and regularly!) may mean that somewhere in or across the ocean, even as far as Alaska, a fish or a bird need not die because of our unthinking use of plastic bags and, more importantly, the careless discarding of them.

Muji polyethylene tote, SGD8.90, is available in most Muji stores. Photo Chin Boh Kay