In the first of a two-part series, StarMetro looks into the issue of abandoned and vandalised recycling containers as well as the lack of regulation to monitor the companies managing them.
THE charity bin that was placed at the corner of Jalan Gembira of Jalan Kelang Lama in Kuala Lumpur has been abandoned for several years.
The broken padlock, illegal stickers plastered all over the bin, overgrown lalang surrounding it and clothes scattered around are signs that the people who placed the bin there have not been back to the site for a long time.
A similar box, but from a different recycling company, shares the same fate.
This one located behind Plaza OUG in Taman OUG looked like it has been abandoned for some time as wild plants are growing around it.
At Taman Gembira, several green bins were vandalised – its padlock broken and lid hanging on its hinges.
In some places, the bins have become rubbish dumps.
All these donation boxes or drop-off bins were put there by recycling companies for people to donate recyclable items.
It is supposed to be opened by volunteers every few weeks and its contents segregated to be re-sold or recycled.
While scavengers and some irresponsible members of the public are certainly to be blamed, one cannot deny that the charities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that place the bins there should take responsibility too.
Over the years, the number of these charity bins has skyrocketed and some believe that its purpose may not be so noble after all.
Too many cooks spoil the broth?
The number of NGOs involved in recycling initiatives in the city is in the hundreds and their donation bins, which are placed all over the Klang Valley, number in the thousands.
While some are responsible for their bins, there are many who have abandoned it and left it to rot.
The situation is compounded with the fact that there is no regulation to monitor companies involved in the collection of used materials for recycling.
The Government is hoping to reach the 22% recycling rate by 2020, and as of October last year, the rate has reached 17.49%.
The numbers are slowly increasing but the figures are only coming from one company governed by the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act 2007; and that is waste management company Alam Flora.
It does not take private companies, NGOs and even the elusive scavengers into account
While former Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan was reported to have said that the ministry was looking at licensing all parties involved in the recycling industry, nothing has materialised yet.
Even if the ministry is successful in doing so, there is no indication that the scavenging menace, which is a contributing factor to the problem, will be addressed.
Genuine recyclers are the victims
Not all involved in the recycling industry are irresponsible though.
Take Life Line Clothing Malaysia for instance. The textile recycling company that collects unwanted fabric and recycles them has placed 200 white collection bins all over the Klang Valley.
Unlike some organisations that take only items in good condition, this company recycles everything in efforts to reduce waste that ends up in landfills.
For every kilogram collected, a certain sum is given to three charities – the Malaysian Association for the Blind, Spastic Children’s Association of Selangor and Federal Territory and the National Cancer Council.
“Scrap metal thieves and scavengers are our biggest enemies and it is a problem that we are grappling with until today,” said Mohamad Zaki Suratman, who is in charge of Life Line Malaysia’s collection bins.
“At least 20 to 30 bins are vandalised every month by these culprits and once, when we opened a box, we caught a scavenger inside stealing items,” Mohamad Zaki said.
Life Line’s genuine attempts to help charities are hampered by these unscrupulous parties.
“We get a lot of good recyclable items in our donation boxes – at least 99.5%. Only 0.5% is actual rubbish.
“But if the scavenger gets to it first, then we get nothing,’’ he said.
A volunteer with the Taiwan Buddhist Tzu-Chi Foundation Malaysia, Francis Tan, concurs with Mohamad Zaki that the charity bins were not effective and many are an eyesore in the city rather than a solution to the recycling issue.
Tan, who is also a Taman Desa Residents Association committee member, said there were occasions when the bins were rummaged by scavengers who then leave rubbish strewn around.
He added that irresponsible people tend to dump all their rubbish next to the box, not fully understanding how it works.
“I have personally witnessed the collectors opening up a box and seeing many unwanted items that cannot be recycled, including domestic waste,” he said.
Mohamad Zaki said they have found the most bizarre items placed by people.
“Once we found used condoms and sanitary napkins inside the box.
“Sometimes I wonder what were they thinking. I honestly do not know,’’ he said.
A resident of Taman Bukit Indah in Jalan Kelang Lama, C.S Tan, said there were about 10 bins within a 7km radius of Taman OUG, Taman United, Taman Gembira and Seri Petaling.
“I notice that a man comes to open the boxes once in a while, but he only takes what he deems valuable.
“The rest is left scattered all over the place. It is disgusting,’’ said Tan.
“Tan’s observations are spot on,” said Alam Flora chief executive officer Datuk Mohd Zain Hassan.
“Some companies are very selective with the recyclable items.
“There is no uniformity in the industry and without proper regulation, everything gets fragmented and chaotic,” added Mohd Zain.
Acknowledging that there is a problem, SWCorp Malaysia Federal Territories director Hazilah Gumri said private recycling companies were not governed by the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act (2007).
“The donation bins are not ours to take away.
“It may be true that there are too many bins and they are becoming a nuisance, however, removing those boxes is not our job.
“We are in a Catch-22. The Act was created for us to move towards a uniform solid waste management system.
“This is in line with the Government’s efforts to propagate the 3Rs, increase our recycling rate and at the same time reduce the amount of waste sent to the landfill.
“Some recycling companies and NGOs are not helping at all. Most of them are providing a good service, but clearly there is a lack of responsibility in getting the job done thoroughly,’’ said Hazilah.
Tomorrow: Scavengers hamper recycling efforts and make a mess.