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“Reduce, Reuse and Recycle”, Encouraging Better Solid Waste Management Practices in Malaysia

“Reduce, Reuse and Recycle”, Encouraging Better Solid Waste Management Practices in Malaysia


[MUSIC PLAYING] ZAINURA ZAINON NOOR:
trash, rubbish, or municipal solid
waste– does not make any difference
what we call it. The fact remains that same. We produce huge
amounts of it, and it takes an enormous amount of
every community’s resources to deal with it. Cities are at the nexus
of a deeper threat to the environment,
namely the production of increasing quantity
and complexity of waste. In general, urban
residents generate two to three times
more solid waste than their fellow
rural citizens. Globally, the daily waste
generation in urban areas is about 760,000
tons and is expected to sharply increase to
1.8 million tons per day by the year 2025. Municipal solid
waste especially, generated in the cities, is
the most complex solid waste stream, as opposed
to more homogeneous waste streams resulting from
industrial or agricultural activities. The list of the top
10 countries that generate the largest amount
of municipal solid waste includes four developing
nations– namely, Brazil, China,
India, and Mexico. This is mainly due to
the size of their growing urban population. Furthermore, their city dwellers
are prospering and adopting high-consumption lifestyles. Urbanization and
income levels also tend to determine the
type of waste generated. The share of inorganic
materials in the waste stream, such as plastics,
paper, and aluminum, also tends to increase
as people grow wealthier and move to the cities. Cities’ authorities which are
responsible for urban waste management are struggling
with the accelerated pace of waste production
in their jurisdiction. More than 50% of
the collected waste is often disposed through
unsanitary land-filling, and about 15% is processed
through unsafe and informal recycling. Improper solid waste
disposal in cities impairs human health and
causes economy, environmental, and biological losses. In [INAUDIBLE] or
unsanitary landfills, leachate, which is the fluid
emerges from the waste, can seep into the ground and
may contaminate both the soil and the groundwater, posing
substantial health hazards to any nearby communities. The common three R’s are
reduce, reuse, and recycling. In order to be sustainable
in the long run, solid waste
management must start with reducing consumption,
followed by reuse and lastly, recycle. Reducing consumption
will require a dramatic cultural shift
and behavior change, which may take a long time. Therefore, in addition to
presenting awareness campaigns on the importance of consuming
less and re-using more, cities should also adopt
strong recycling programs. Recycling is a process
of turning materials that would otherwise
become waste into valuable resources of
financial, environmental, and social returns. With emphasis on urban
and peri-urban areas, recycling is viewed
as a sustainable means of diverting maximum fractions
of municipal solid waste from landfill disposal,
since the waste generated in this area contains
substantially less organic portion
compared to rural areas. The benefits of recycling
go far beyond just saving landfill space. It provides a source of
valuable raw materials. Multiple markets exist for
papers, plastic, glass, metals, and other materials. Although collecting and
selling these materials will not make a profit
for the community, it may reduce the community’s
waste management cost by creating a revenue
stream from waste. Recycling undoubtedly
saves resources. One ton of recycled
newspaper saved the equivalent of 17
trees, two barrels of oil, and 41,000 kilowatt
hours of energy. One ton of recycled
plastic saved 5,774 kilowatt hours of energy
and 16.3 barrels of oil. And one ton of
recycled aluminum saved 14,000 kilowatt hours of
energy and 40 barrels of oil. Apart from conserving
resources and creating revenues from waste stream,
recycling also provides new jobs and economy
development potential. A well-managed recycling
program provides employment for people who have difficulty
finding work in other places. In Malaysia, 64% of the
overall waste composition is dominated by
municipal solid waste. Out of this, 80%
are recyclables. Plastics are probably the most
common recyclable material with high potential for
recycling in Malaysia, since this material
is widely used and part of a modern
lifestyle in urbanized areas. Growth rates in Malaysia
plastic industries reached an average of 15%
for the past 11 years, indicating a high demand for
this material in the country. Recycling should be
greatly emphasized, especially at the most
basic level of community, which is the household unit. Households are the
highest contributor among the municipal solid
waste sources in Malaysia. Although households in Malaysia,
as well as around the world, will need to significantly
reduce the consumption rate, and subsequently
their waste generation, in the short-term
context, proper recycling can lead to a substantial
reduction in terms of waste sent to landfill. Malaysia aims to be a
developing country by year 2020, and among other measures has
set a target of achieving a recycling rate of 22%. However, its recycling
rate was 5% in 2002 and only increased slightly
to 5.5% in 2006 and 2008. Compared to neighboring
countries in Southeast Asia, this is far too low. Singapore, for example, has
a recycling rate of 56%, and the Philippines is at 12%. So what are some of
the underlying reasons for this shortfall? In Malaysia,
municipal solid waste is managed by the National Solid
Waste Management Department under the Ministry of
Urban Well-Being, Housing, and Local Government. Recently, the ministry
formulated the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing
Management Act, SWPCM 2007, which includes the promotion
of waste minimization through the three
R’s activities. [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] Although the enactment of
SWPCM Act 2007 has provided legislative empowerment to
the Malaysian government, it cannot be fully enforced
and implemented due to the lack of other supporting regulation. In several major cities in
which the two-plus-one system of collection has started,
implementation is not smooth. Majority of households are not
fully aware of the collection schedule. Furthermore, separate bin for
recyclable is not provided. Due to these reasons,
many households are quite reluctant to
actively participate in the recycling program. Despite the
mandatory [INAUDIBLE] of household waste
under the act, the implementation
has been weak. Fines are yet to be imposed
on households that do not separate their waste at source. Another major challenge in
promoting recycling activities in Malaysia is related to
the lack of public support. Despite numerous
public awareness and campaigns
throughout the years, public responses to
recycling activities are still at a very low stage. I think definitely it’s
to do with awareness. We have done a lot of work–
I’m sure the government has done the same thing for local. But I think awareness
is critical, mainly because we are a society
that is so used to– just let somebody else deal with it. We do a lot of complaining. IE, when we see rubbish on
the ground in the [INAUDIBLE] business like that, we complain. Why isn’t the authority
doing something about it, that kind of thing. But we never think that it
is our responsibility that we should be doing ourselves. So it is a point where
being aware of it and taking responsibility
and going in there and digging it up and putting
it in a rubbish bin [INAUDIBLE]. So awareness is
critical to doing that. Although most
households understand the need for
sustainable development, this level of awareness does
not always translate to actions. In many cases, the
households that do recycle are motivated by
financial gain rather than feeling a sense
of responsibility in reducing their waste in order
to conserve their resources and environment. Several approaches
can be implemented towards achieving the
desired goals of recycling community in Malaysia’s cities. Current scenario has
suggested that there are policies and
facilities in place, but they are not
comprehensive enough to contribute to an
effective recycling program. Providing separate
bins for recyclables and ensuring households are
aware of the two [INAUDIBLE] schedule may prove to be among
the best, yet simple, approach to encourage people to
participate actively in the recycling activities. Moreover, proper collection
points, systematic collection, and processing of recyclable
need to be established. For this to happen, all
relevant stakeholders– namely, the federal and
municipal governments, concessionaires, traders,
recycling center operators, and NGOs– must
coordinate their efforts. Strong enforcement
of SWPCM Act 2007 is another critical factor. Strategies such as
imposing fees on households that are not segregating their
waste should be considered. Households may find this
approach to be taxing at first, but they will be
encouraged to recycle. At the same time, the
role of financial reward among households should
not be overlooked. Rewards such as
rebates and incentives should be utilized to encourage
recycling until the habit can be sustained. However, despite having
financial and regulatory tools as the principal instrument
for driving change in behavior, the effectiveness
of the tools is strongly dependent
on reflecting– reshaping attitudes,
motivations, and norms within a community. There is still a long
way towards achieving the 22% recycling rate
by 2020 in Malaysia, and it remains
unclear whether or not the ambitious goal can be met. However, if the proposed
strategies addressing the barriers can be
carried out effectively, there is a high possibility
for successful implementation of sustainable solid waste
management in the country. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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