Getting plastic producers to pitch in

Rubbish collected during the first three days of experiment.

KOTA KINABALU: Producers of mineral water and single-use packaging, especially polystyrene food boxes, should help to clean up the such litter from consumers and which end up in rivers and the sea.

Environmentalist Anton Ngui said findings from a year-long study conducted on Sabah’s water quality were worrying.

Future Alam Borneo (FAB) launched one of its floating litter traps at Kampung Berhala as part of the organisation’s Sandakan Plastic Solutions Project to document the types of rubbish being thrown into the sea.

“We also studied the communal waste situation at Kampung Sim-Sim in Sandakan via independent laboratories to better understand the impact of invisible wastes, ” said Ngui in a statement here.

The FAB founder said the year-long project, supported by community partners Hasanah Foundation and Dutch non-governmental organisation Clear Rivers, looked at the problems in-depth and offered community-scale solutions.

He said this was done with a view to educate the public on the larger health and environmental risks of this chronic rubbish-dumping habit among Sandakan communities.

“The preliminary results from these recent activities present a very worrying picture of the pollution along Sandakan’s coastline.”

Water samples being taken for lab tests.Water samples being taken for lab tests.

He said collection from the first week of the litter trap revealed huge amounts of polystyrene food packaging boxes and mineral water bottles, which were impossible or very difficult to recycle or reuse.

Water and sediment tests that were carried out at Kampung Sim-Sim, he added, showed deposits that were harmful to human and marine ecosystem health.

Ngui said that by using the Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), plastic polymers of various types were found in the samples.

“The sources of those microplastics are likely ropes, nets, tyres, plastic bags, bottles, coatings from wires and other household appliances; items that can often be seen strewn about the village, ” he noted.

He said Coliform bacteria tests were also part of the study, of which the results revealed faecal coliform and E.coli bacteria were present, especially within the vicinity of houses.

“Faecal coliform and E.coli counts were respectively over 200 times and nine times more than the accepted levels set by the Malaysian Marine Water Quality Standards, ” said Ngui.

He said this could be attributed to the fact that Sabah’s water villages did not have any sewerage systems installed and household wastewater was discharged directly into the sea.

“The impact of these waste streams on nature and the marine life that communities rely on, must not be underestimated, ” he stressed.

He said this was more so during the Covid-19 pandemic when people had been spending more time at home and purchasing more consumable goods in single-use packaging.

Though the study was just a general analysis, the evidence pointed to a latent but growing health problem, Ngui added.

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