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Why aren’t Malaysians recycling?

 | November 11, 2013

Malaysians need to start managing their waste material and start adopting the recycling culture as a way of life, before things get out of control.

by Ahmad Suhaili Idrus

PETALING JAYA: The average Malaysian throws away 1.64kg of waste per day. According to a World Bank report, this is 0.44kg of additional waste that is produced by the average worldwide city dweller at 1.2kg.

Yes, we Malaysians throw away and waste more than normal. At this rate, the waste production of Malaysians would increase by a drastic 65% from 10,000 tonnes per day in 2010 to 17,000 tonnes per day by 2020, filling up to the brim the capacity of two out of three landfills at Jeram in Kuala Selangor and Tanjung Dua Belas in Kuala Langat by 2035.

Solid waste management continues to be a costly affair with about two-thirds of the local councils’ total collected annual assessment fees being spent to manage solid waste. Yet at the same time, our waste recycling rate is way below the average levels at a mere 11% of the total solid waste being produced compared to 57% in Singapore and 66% in Germany.

Hence the perennial question to our waste problem is: Why aren’t Malaysians recycling? Reassessing Waste Unless we want to live knee deep in rubbish, we need to start to reassess how our waste is managed and seriously start adopting the recycling culture as a way of life.

Solid waste management is viewed as a serious business by the government as it is an Entry Point Project under the Greater Kuala Lumpur/Klang Valley (or GKL) National Key Economic Area, whereby four major initiatives are dedicated to improve solid waste management in GKL, driven by the mantra Reduce, Reuse and Recycle (3R).

KL City Hall (DBKL) is implementing a recycling ecosystem that stimulates waste disposal reduction. This method includes composting and anaerobic digestion to process high levels of organic waste.

Jabatan Pengurusan Sisa Pepejal Negara (JPSPN), under the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry, is leading this effort. JPSPN is also setting up the first waste recycling facility at Sungai Kertas in Gombak to process waste from construction and building demolition.

DBKL is also in the middle of installing wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) at five wet markets as the current discharge contains too much organic substance such as fish scales, food scraps and blood. When completed, it will treat raw waste water from the markets before being released into the river. The WWTP project extends to the wet markets at Selayang, Jalan Klang Lama, Air Panas, Sentul and Pasar Borong KL.

Three town councils in KL, Ampang Jaya and Selayang have started to install communal grease traps at hawker centres to separate food, solid waste and waste oil/grease from flowing into the drains. These communal grease traps will reduce the amount of oil and grease that flows into rivers by at least 90%.

Managing Our Garbage When I first came across waste segregation, I assumed it was limited to just paper, tins, glass and plastic. Like many others, I was unaware of how important it was to segregate organic waste.

Fact is, that without organic waste segregation right at the source, the entire waste management becomes a massive effect and takes much longer than it should. But prior to the waste segregation matter is the question — Why do we throw so much away?

As many environmentally conscious Malaysian take the initiative to segregate their waste and yet are paying the same price as the rest of us who don’t do so, the most effective solution is to impose tariffs based on the weight of the waste produced! This is why I truly welcome the government’s plan to introduce solid waste based-tariff that will be introduced once the recycling ecosystem is completed, forcing people and organisations to be wary of how much they throw away.

Efficient incentives can be introduced as motivation to encourage people to reduce their waste generation. I strongly believe these incentives can be the boost that we need for the start of a more conscious society.

The solutions are actually quite simple: Throw away less, recycle more and separate waste at its source.

The end result is to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills, and recycling can be done at faster turnaround times using various new methods of waste management.

Truly, it’s high time that all of us rethink the way we manage our waste because the garbage we throw away never really goes away.

Datuk Ahmad Suhaili Idrus is the director of the National Key Result Area for Urban Public Transport and National Key Economic Area for Greater KL/Klang Valley in the Performance Management & Delivery Unit.

This content is provided by FMT content provider The Malaysian Reserve


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