Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Corporation (SWCorp) Federal Territories director Mohd Zahir Shari said the public should dispose of their used face masks in a hygienic manner instead of just throwing them into the bin with other rubbish.
Millions of Malaysians have been using face masks since the Covid-19 pandemic started, with supplies in the market running dry.
Each three-ply surgical mask can only be used for a couple of hours before needing to be replaced, resulting in thousands being discarded daily.
Mohd Zahir said people should be more careful about how they dispose of their used face masks.
“The public are advised to follow the step-by-step instructions on face mask disposal (see graphic).
“This includes folding the mask with the contaminated part facing inwards, rolling it up and wrapping it in plastic before disposal.
“We want to make sure our rubbish contractors are not directly exposed to the contaminated masks. As it is their job is already challenging and considered high-risk, we do not want to make it more hazardous for them,” he told StarMetro.
Proper face mask disposal and the hazard it poses to rubbish collectors was raised by Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng, who pointed out that they were at risk of being exposed to Covid-19 while carrying out their duties.
He noted that used face masks were not separated at source and were instead dumped into the same bin together with other rubbish.
Lim said these masks should be considered hazardous waste and called on the authorities to do something about the matter.
He urged the environment as well as housing and local government ministers to urgently put in place a proper standard operating procedure (SOP) to safeguard those in this line of work.
Cleaning services are categorised as essential under the movement control order (MCO). In Kuala Lumpur, Alam Flora Sdn Bhd is the appointed contractor to carry out cleaning works.
The service comes under the purview of the Housing and Local Government Ministry.
More domestic waste
Meanwhile, Mohd Zahir said there was a slight decrease in illegal dumping cases in Kuala Lumpur, while domestic waste collection had increased marginally since the MCO came into effect on March 18.
He said his officers reported sporadic illegal dumping cases in certain areas.
“There are still some dumping cases reported since we reduced patrolling, especially at night, but we are gathering data on it daily,” Mohd Zahir said, adding that enforcement and raids would be carried out at a later date.
He reminded everyone to not throw their rubbish indiscriminately as they could be prosecuted under Section 71 of the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act 2007 which carries a fine of RM10,000 to RM100,000 or jail term of between six months and five years for those found guilty.
He noted that there were no major changes in terms of domestic waste generated during this period, despite the fact that most people have been restricted to their homes since March 18.
“While there was a decrease in waste generated from commercial areas, there was a slight increase in domestic waste.
“So it kind of balances up,” he said.
On illegal dumping, Mohd Zahir said enforcement at hotspots such as Jinjang Utara, Kepong industrial area, Jalan Sri Batu Caves, San Peng area and Cheras found that there were minimal cases. None were reported in Putrajaya.
However, in Taman Tiara in the Titiwangsa area, someone had dumped bags full of fabric waste which carried the tags of the owner.
SWcorp said the owner, when contacted, said they had paid a waste contractor to dispose of the waste properly and claimed they should not be held accountable for the illegal dumping.
“We explained to them that they were still accountable as the onus is on them to hire a credible licensed waste contractor who is registered with the National Solid Waste Management Department.