MAHATMA Gandhi’s famous quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world” is truly appropriate when it comes to how we deal with our waste.
We blame everyone including the government, opposition, the fast-moving consumer goods, the education system and even some powerful corporations in the world for the problems we are facing with excessive amount of waste.
But it is time we look to ourselves.
We can certainly do more to tackle the issue of waste within the circle of our family, friends and our work organisations. We must summon the will to do so.
We need to cut the amount of rubbish we create, support more green options and as much as possible, reduce first before resorting to recycling.
Environment and waste management expert Dr Theng Lee Chong opined that the waste-to-wealth concept where rubbish is converted from an exhausted utility to a valuable or desirable commodity, which had been promoted in recent years, was not sustainable in the long run.
People must take responsibility for their consumption and the waste they generate, because all waste management involves costs and environmental impact.
Theng called for the public to understand and act accordingly based on our own conscience.
Based on the 5R concept we must refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose or recycle and rot our waste.
The idea of refusing to generate waste, which tops the 5R chart, may sound easy but could be a challenge for some to put into practice.
We should ask ourselves how much stuff do we need in the first place, and examine our purchasing habits.
Simple actions such as fixing a broken item, repurposing a product to stretch its lifespan, avoiding single-use items, bringing your own carrier bag and separating waste will go a long way in helping the environment.
Experts say we are a foodie culture, so we need to watch the amount of food we order and waste.
After all, food waste consists 60% of our trash.In recent years, we have been talking about converting waste to energy and waste to wealth.
The idea is to avoid burdening our landfills and instead, convert the heaps of trash that we have generated – especially plastic – into another useful form, such as energy.
The energy produced can be sold for revenue.
These concepts may be promoted with good intentions but environmental experts say that we must not fall into the trap of accepting energy from waste as a renewable energy.
Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives’ (GAIA) noted that governments in many parts of the world had subscribed to the waste-to-energy programme.
GAIA argued that energy from waste was not renewable energy because the majority of the electricity generation came from non-recycled plastics in waste.
This is along with other combustibles that can be separated and recycled, such as paper, wood and textile, the organisation pointed out.
Waste-to-energy incineration will not make any progress towards goals of zero waste.
As Greenpeace Malaysia campaigner Heng Kiah Chun said, “Instead of burning more waste such as plastics to generate energy, we must avoid producing more waste.”
Let us start championing green living by changing our own habits.
We are a strong 31 million population and if we all set our minds to doing the right thing, we can be the change we want to see.
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