‘Need not ban plastic’

(From left) SWCorp Perak director Fatimah Ahmad, Rusnah, Ipoh City Watch president Prof Dr Richard Ng, Lim, Ipoh City Council Town Planning Director Zulqarnain Mohamed, and MPMA’s Johnson Phoon throwing plastic bottles into a recycle bin during the launch of the forum.

THE Malaysian Plastics Manufacturers Association (MPMA) has urged the Perak state government to educate the public on waste management and anti-littering instead of banning the use of plastic bags and polystyrene containers.

Its president Datuk Lim Kok Boon said similar to developed countries, the focus should be on the 3Rs - reduce, reuse and recycle.

He added that the association would state its concerns about the ban and the alternatives available to the Perak government.

Neither plastic bags nor polystyrene products were a problem, he said, but became a problem and nuisance only when they were littered indiscriminately.

Lim said therefore the government should have awareness programmes, similar to the Japanese who started an anti-littering programme before having a waste management solution.

“The public and supermarket operators must be educated to reduce the number of plastic bags used. If the products can be packed into three plastic bags, why the need for five bags?

“The second part, will be to reuse, which 80% of the people are already practising by using bags as garbage liners, with the third section being the recycling of plastic bags, bottles and other products.

“This is an efficient way because even if plastic bags are banned, at the end of the day, people will still need them to throw away rubbish,” he told reporters after the opening of a forum by state executive councillor Datuk Rusnah Kassim last Tuesday.

Titled “The Impact of Plastics on the Sustainability of Environment: Should Plastics be Banned?, the forum, organised by Ipoh City Watch, was held in view of the state government’s decision to ban plastic bags and polystyrene containers beginning June next year.

Lim added that the normal misconception of plastics is that the product did not degrade, and therefore it is not good for the environment.

Council workers removing plastic bags and polystyrene containers thrown indiscriminately into the river. — filepic
Council workers removing plastic bags and polystyrene containers thrown indiscriminately into the river. — filepic

He said studies have shown that even biodegradable products, which are hailed to be more environmental friendly, did not degrade in landfills due to its unfavourable environment.

“Degradation in the presence of oxygen emits carbon dioxide, while degradation in the absence of oxygen (typically in landfills) emits methane, and both gases are potent greenhouse gases which contribute to global warming.

“Methane gas is 22 times more harmful than carbon dioxide, and therefore people don’t understand, when you degrade, you cause global warming.

“The Environment Protection Agency of America, and the Australian Department of Environment, says that most things which goes into a landfill does not degrade, and if it degrades, it will cause global warming,” he said.

Malaysian Plastics Forum’s Education and Awareness chairman Ahmad Khairuddin Sha’aban said there was no landfills in Italy, Switzerland and Austria as the countries practised a policy of closed economy - meaning that anything from food to plastics were recycled.

Ahmad Khairuddin said food in those countries were compost, while plastics were recycled into furniture, or into energy.

“Japan started with its anti-littering campaign, followed by waste separation, and now about 90% of the waste is recycled.

“There, the government has not banned plastic bags or polystyrene as their citizens are disciplined enough not to litter,” he said, adding that Malaysians too had developed the culture of reusing plastic bags as garbage liners.

Rusnah told reporters that the state government would reconsider the decision to ban the use of plastic bags and polystyrene containers if MPMA’s proposal was convincing.

“It takes between 500 and 1,000 years for plastics to degrade, and we cannot leave such a problem for the next generation to witness.

“Even if you tell people to reduce the use of plastic bags they will not listen, so we need concrete solutions to overcome the problem,” she said, adding that she was not convinced yet with the proposal.

Ireland, Wales and Scotland governments, she said, had imposed a levy for each plastic bag used.

“So instead of a ban, maybe the association can suggest a tax be imposed,” she added.

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