Looking for biodegradable alternatives


Low (left) and Lee with some of the PLA products shown at the briefing session.

THE government is encouraging eco-friendly products to substitute single-use plastics as part of its efforts to move towards a more sustainable environment.

To this end, it is engaging with all stakeholders to get input to meet its goal of eliminating plastic pollution in Malaysia.

To facilitate this, the Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Ministry (Mestecc) held a special session to brief representatives from various environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs), plastics manufacturers as well as those from the food and beverage industry on the country’s “Roadmap Towards Zero Single-Use Plastics 2018-2030”.

The session was held at the Hong Kong Trade Development Council office in Kuala Lumpur. Mestecc principal assistant secretary Nor Haswani Kamis also exchanged ideas on ways to move towards zero single-use plastics in the country as well as asked for input on the roadmap.

She shared the three phases of the roadmap in addressing plastic pollution in Malaysia, namely Phase 1 (2018-2021), Phase 2 (2022-2025) and Phase 3 (2026-2030).

Nor Haswani briefing attendees on the Roadmap Towards Zero Single-Use Plastics 2018-2030. 
Nor Haswani briefing attendees on the Roadmap Towards Zero Single-Use Plastics 2018-2030. 

“From this year onwards, there will be a charge on plastic bags and straws will only be provided on request, among other policies.

“Under Phase 2, we expect the widespread use of bio bag throughout the country. We will also speak to other countries within the region on marine debris.

“In the third phase, we hope to have eliminated single-use plastics with the increased production of biodegradable and compostable items,” she said.

The road map also highlights the search for alternatives for plastics.

Asked why the roadmap required such a long time frame, Nor Haswani said it was not easy to change consumers’ perceptions and behaviour concerning the reduction of plastic products.

“It takes time for consumers to avoid plastic waste. Measures need to be taken in stages to eliminate single-use plastics by 2030.

“For example, the staff at Mestecc have taken the lead by bringing their own food containers and utensils to work to minimise plastic waste,” she added.

During a question and answer session, Unique Merchandise Trading managing director Low Sing Chyuan asked how the ministry would ensure that the 20sen collected from consumers (for plastic bags) are used for particular purposes.

Malaysian Bioeconomy Development Corporation Sdn Bhd business analyst Emirul Adzhar Yahya said the roadmap was only a framework done by the Federal Government, but implementation and enforcement is by the individual state governments.

“Each state government would have a different way of implementing it. By having the roadmap, we are trying to consolidate everything to have one single implementation.”

He said so far, only Penang and Selangor have been charging for use of plastic bag and Penang uses the money collected for charity and pollution-based projects.

He said money collected and its usage would be transparent under the roadmap.

Low also questioned why levy on plastics was not imposed in phase one as opposed to phase two.

“If you apply now, everyone will make a change. Why should the roadmap be so long if manufacturers will be given tax incentives for biodegradable plastics? If all manufacturers have this funding, then it should be no problem to implement this faster,” he said.

Emirul, however, said implementation of tax and incentive initiatives would take time as many agencies and processes were involved.

“We also have to ensure there is ample supply and that no company monopolises or controls the price of biodegradable plastics,” he said.

NGP Technology Sdn Bhd’s K.K. Lim highlighted that there was no mention of sources of raw materials for biodegradable plastics.

Nor Haswani welcomed the input and said they were ready to engage with more NGOs so that the roadmap would bear fruit and concerns addressed.

Prior to the talk, Institute of Biodegradable Material Hong Kong chairman David Lee shared an alternative to non-biodegradable and compostable plastics, which are products made of polylactic acid (PLA). PLA is an environmentally friendly substance made from corn starch and can be used to replace single-use plastics.

“I have come up with PLA products with 100% fibre, which are biodegradable and compostable. They include cutlery, cups, straws and towels,” said Lee.

Samples of items like sanitary napkins, straws, cups, plastic utensils, blankets and warm clothing were distributed for participants to see and touch during his session.


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