RECYCLING waste in homes has been piling up since the start of the movement control order (MCO) as people strive to limit their trips outside.
Here in Penang, where the recycling rate is double the national average, patrons have started to notice stacks of empty tin cans, instant noodle packaging and newspapers building up.
“We recycle religiously. Every scrap of paper, every plastic packaging and every tin or can is set aside to be handed over to recyclers, ” said Chong, a stay-at-home mother who lives in Bayan Lepas.
She said before the MCO began on March 18, she had four options for recycling: a private collector who came on motorcycle, two charity vans that passed her house on designated days of the week and the Saturday morning collection by the local council.
“Now, however, we don’t see the private or charity collectors anymore.
“Even if they were still coming around, I don’t think I would want to stop them as I don’t want to be in contact with anyone at this time, ” she said.
When contacted, Penang welfare, caring society and environment committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said the state had advised private recyclers to stop operations during the MCO period.
“Although recycling is deemed essential, we have urged all private parties involved in recycling to stop going down to the ground for this period.
“There are health risks involved in their operations, so it is best that they stop for the time being, ” Phee said.
Council collections of recycling on Penang island and mainland will continue, he added, so people have an avenue to clear recycling from their homes.
“The councils collect recycling from homes every Saturday, so we advise everyone to put out their recyclables before 8am to be collected.
“Waste segregation at source should continue and everyone is asked to continue separating their rubbish at their homes, ” Phee added.
In the middle of last year, Penang hit a 42.69% rate in recycling – double the national average that stood at 21%.
The Waste Segregation At Source policy has been in effect in Penang since 2017 and requires the separation of solid waste into recyclable waste (paper, plastic, glass and aluminium cans/ iron/ metal) and general waste (dirty waste and food waste) in homes.
“Penang has been the leader in recycling (in the country) and it is our duty to continue.
“Recyclables collected from homes by the councils will be sent to state collection centres to be processed, ” Phee said, adding that however serious, the Covid-19 pandemic should not stop the battle against climate change.
On a related matter, Phee said the state was looking into ways to process medical waste and sewage waste that may be contaminated with Covid-19.
“I’ve expressed great concern over the medical waste coming out from ICUs and quarantine centres as well as sewage waste.
“So far, not much attention is being paid to it and if there are accidents like overflows onto the road, it may lead to serious consequences.
“We are now looking at how we can process this waste to produce zero discharge, ” Phee said.
Penang ended 2019 with a recycling rate of 44.04%, according to the Penang Green Council.
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