MAK Kuan Siow, 68, and Liew Kwee Lan, 69, are neighbours in Taman Desa, off Jalan Kelang Lama, Kuala Lumpur.
The women spend a lot of their free time volunteering at the Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation Malaysia’s recycling centre in Taman Danau Desa, Kuala Lumpur.
The two women would sort out plastic and glasses one day, or tin cans and paper the next. They also separate black-and-white paper from coloured ones as different colours of paper fetch different prices.
They also handle other recyclable items such as old clothing, bags, belts and bottles that people drop off at the centre each day.
These items would later be sold off, depending on their condition, or recycled into rags.
Their mission is to save the environment by ensuring that nothing ends up in the landfills.
They do it voluntarily. None of them are paid for the time spent at the centre.
“I do not do it for the money. I do it to keep my mind active,” Mak said.
“It is better than sitting at home and watching television,” said Kwee Lan.
Liew Yok Peng, 72, has been volunteering at the centre for a few years now and said she felt happy to do something for the environment in her own little way.
“It is good for the mind and soul – it keeps one healthy,” Yok Peng said.
Apart from being a drop-off centre for recyclable items, the centre also doubles up as an education centre.
“We teach people that everything can be recycled,” said volunteer Francis Tan.
“The centre serves a dual purpose – to collect recyclable items as well as educate the public on recycling.
“We get a lot of visitors at the centre. There are even groups from schools, colleges, universities and even banks.
“People who want to learn how to recycle everything at home also come here to learn how to do so.
“I always tell the visitors that this is where we turn rubbish into gold.
“Those who are in this business must understand that we are not here to make money. We are here to teach because this Earth is not ours to begin with, it belongs to our children, we are only living here on borrowed time,” Tan said.
The Tzu Chi Foundation is one of the biggest non-governmental organisations in Malaysia, with over 1,000 community recycling centres and more than 18,000 volunteers throughout Malaysia.
About 480 tonnes of recyclables were collected in all its centres in the Klang Valley.
To become a volunteer at one of its centres, visit www.tzuchi.my