THE increase in population and a rise in public spending are raising concerns about our escalating rubbish problem.
People need to be mindful that the more they consume, the more rubbish will inadvertently be thrown out.
More thought must be put into ways of reducing waste from reaching landfills as well as reducing carbon emission.
Experts and environmentalists at the recent Petaling Jaya Waste Summit opined that the key to reducing waste may be in adopting a circular economy as opposed to a linear economy.
In a circular economy, people are encouraged to maximise the use of resources.
This regenerative system is achieved through maintenance, repair, reuse, refurbishing, recycling and upcycling of products before they reach the end of their use.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) describes circular economy as an economic system based on business models which replace the end-of-life concept by reducing, alternative reusing, recycling and recovering materials in production or distribution as well as in the consumption processes.
Products created should go through a cycle of reuse and this also refers to vehicles when they reach the end of life. — Filepic.
Petaling Jaya mayor Datuk Mohd Azizi Mohd Zain envisions the city achieving a 30% recycling rate this year, but said it would not be possible without stakeholders’ support.
“All stakeholders must be aware of their waste generation and its impact on the environment.
“Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) has allocated RM3mil for residents to embark on projects which I hope will focus on the environment, zero waste, low carbon and other efforts in line with circular economy.
“We have created the PJ Eco Recycling Plaza in SS8 which will be our reference point, an educational and research centre that supports circular economy with regard to waste.
“MBPJ has embarked on waste composting to produce liquid composts and biogas which helps generate electricity.
“The society must adopt a producer extended responsibility habit whereby everyone is responsible for the trash they create,” he said.
At the event, the experts discussed how the concept of linear economy should be a thing of the past.
Tetra Pak Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines and Indonesia environment director Terrynz Tan holding some of the products made of recycled Tetra Pak boxes. In front of her is the extract of Tetra Pak box content which consists of 75% paper, 20% polyethylene and 5% aluminium.
Linear economy refers to one where raw materials are used to make products, and after use, discarded and most likely headed for the landfill.
Comparatively, a circular economy encourages making the best use (through reuse, redesign, recycle and upcycle) of a product before it is no longer useful.
Experts at the summit said every product created should be able to go through a cycle of reuse.
This was said in reference to vehicles upon reaching the end of its use; even empty packet drinks can be turned into roof panel boards as initiated by some companies in Malaysia.
Era Suria Ecopreneurs Sdn Bhd chief executive officer S.Sri Umeswara, a speaker at the event, said brand owners must create items that can be recycled. Era Suria, which practises circular economy, stresses on minimising wastage, using less resources and creating job opportunities, he said.
“Even automotive industries should think of embracing a circular economy to look into recycling vehicle parts.
“Corporate companies should diversify from carrying out corporate social responsibility to create shared values.
“For example, if a company is based in Petaling Jaya, it should focus on circular economy within the city itself. Brands such as drink packets are doing this.”
Environment Idaman Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Mhd Saiful Anuar said political will and government commitment could help determine the success of circular economy.
He said the society currently was still focused on downstream recycling instead of the upstream method.
“In my view the missing link in circular economy is related to policy and enforcement, education in school as well as social education.
“We are still talking about recycling waste instead of making products that produce less waste,” said Mhd Saiful.
He added that monetary incentive would also be an encouraging factor to keep a product recycled for life.
“If we can teach our children that the environment matters more, rather than being profit-oriented, we will see results,” he said.
Tetra Pak Global Environmental policy director Mustan Lalani said that waste should not be regarded as having an end-of-life, instead it should be regarded as potential resource for future use.
He said product manufacturers should adopt responsible practises to meet the objective circular economy.
“Manufacturers should be aware of the need to be responsible in line with certification such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC),” he said, adding that development of renewable materials was the right step taken to preserve Mother Earth’s future.
Mustan also referred to the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) which required all those involved in the creation of a product as well as users to play a role in ensuring its ability to be recycled or reused.
He added that there were also challenges in terms of meeting the objective of circular economy.He explained that at times, transportation costs may be more than the value of the items being recycled or upcycled.
Mustan said targets must always be set and incentives included to encourage people to adopt the recycling habit.
The “pay as you throw” concept in Japan (requiring the public to pay to send their waste to landfill) would persuade the public to recycle more, said Mustan.