KUALA LUMPUR: How many plastic bags or containers have you thrown away in the past few days? At least one or two, if not more? Now, how scary would it be to imagine everyone in Malaysia doing the same, day in and day out?
The amount of plastic waste discarded into landfills and oceans is worrying, which is why Kitaran was founded to do all it can to mitigate the issue of plastic pollution.
FMT Lifestyle recently caught up with Emir Bustami, who explained more about the social enterprise he co-founded.
“I was living with my family when I realised the lack of transparency when it comes to how our plastic waste is handled,” he said. “For example, when rubbish is thrown into the recyclable or non-recyclable bin in supermarkets, I see the same items in both bins.
“This got me wondering: do they actually get sorted afterwards?”
Shortly thereafter, Emir learnt about the Precious Plastic Project, an open hardware plastic recycling project founded by Dutch industrial designer Dave Hakkens in 2013.
The initiative relies on a series of machines and tools to grind, melt and inject recycled plastic into moulds, creating new products on a small scale. This is called micro-recycling.
After obtaining the blueprints to make similar machines, Emir and two friends embarked on a six-month crowdfunding process. They finally got the machines made with the help of the Sea Monkey Project, another social enterprise that tackles plastic pollution.
Kitaran’s activities are primarily educational: they work with schools or corporations to run programmes that shed further awareness on the issue.
They have also made a cart, known as PlastiKart – itself a product of micro-recycling – which they bring along on their programmes.
“Participants, especially kids, can take part in plastic recycling by putting items in the Kart, which makes it a fun but informative process. They usually love it,” Emir said warmly.
The 29-year-old shared that he became even more invested in the issue when he took up scuba diving: of all the dives he did, there was not one where he didn’t see some form of plastic in the ocean.
The group mainly focuses on recycling Type-2 HDPE (high-density polyethylene) and Type-5 PP (polypropylene) plastics.
A circular economy
When FMT Lifestyle visited the Kitaran team at their temporary workspace in Ampang, they were making medals ordered by an international school for its sports day – a massive order of over 600 pieces!
Emir then demonstrated the medal-making process, which starts with sorting the collected plastic, snipping it into smaller pieces, shredding it in a machine, feeding the plastic flakes into an injecting machine to be melted so the molten plastic can be moulded, and finally, removing them from the mould to do the finishing touches.
Other recycled products sold by Kitaran include charms, carabiners, coasters, beads, and even pots.
“We outsource our beads from Pertubuhan Perkhidmatan Sosial dan Pembangunan Komuniti in Gombak, and charms from refugee families under the Sea Monkey Project, so there’s fixed income for them monthly,” he added.
Emir further expressed hope that they will be able to hold more outdoor education programmes, as they had in Cherating not long ago.
“We carried out multiple activities with an element of sustainability, such as mangrove tours, marine conservation talks, and a beach clean-up where we recycled the plastic we collected.”
Asked what they ultimately aim to achieve, Emir said Kitaran’s mission is to create a circular economy, where all waste and excess products are recycled so that nothing – or at least as little as possible – goes into the landfill.
“We would like for everyone to play a part in zero-waste living, no matter how small that part may be,” he concluded. “It doesn’t take one person to do it perfectly, it takes everyone to do it imperfectly.”