THERE is a saying in Malay that goes: “Cakap tak serupa bikin” (Not doing what is said), and I get that feeling a lot when it comes to our “Cleaner, Greener Penang”.
The tagline has long been Penang’s pride, but after so many years, I wonder how much cleaner or greener Penangites are really getting.
For someone who grew up inclined towards protecting nature, and recycling at home and school until I became the class “recycling manager”, I have not been too progressive since I started working when it comes to protecting the planet.
Instead of a life where I reduce waste, I end up accumulating them in the course of my work.
When covering the launch of a project or event, I sometimes see clusters of probably 100 helium balloons used.
Once, the organisers lost control of the balloons and I watched them fly away.
As we are on an island, the likelihood of the helium balloons eventually bursting and landing into the sea is quite high. Turtles have been reported to consume them accidentally on mistaking them for jellyfish, ending up with massive indigestion.
At other assignments, I often get goodie bags filled with usually notebooks and pens, apart from snacks and a bottle of water.
I appreciate these gifts, but I never understand why the notebook and pen, safely tucked in a goodie bag, would need individual plastic wrappers.
I recently covered an event promoting edible wrapping film made from seaweed to replace plastic, but they gave out a notebook encased in a plastic wrapper.
“Oh, the irony!” I thought as I unpacked the bag.
The plastic packaging always leaves me guilt-stricken because when I discard it, I cannot help being conscious of the effort it would take to recycle it, not to mention the fact that many other recipients would just toss them into the rubbish bin instead of recycling bin.
I still see acquaintances and friends throwing aluminium cans into dustbins without flinching.
I wait to see if they would turn around when they realise the cans need to go into the recycling bin, but it is never the case.
These people, I know, are well aware and have been educated about Penang’s waste segregation at source policy. But none of them step up to it.
How do we expect to educate the young or those with lesser access to the “3Rs” (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) programmes if we ourselves as a forward, educated white-collared community fall short when it comes to consciously segregating our waste.
Maybe I am equally at fault for not stopping them or picking the cans up myself, and saying something when I see them tossed into the bin.
This has been eating away at my conscience for a while now, hence, this write-up is cathartic.
The state government has lived up to its side of the bargain, initiating various campaigns and projects statewide to create mass awareness of waste segregation.
Starting last month, the state issued RM250 fines to landed commercial and residential property owners who still discard rubbish without first separating the recyclable items.
While the state does its bit for the environment, I do not see people walking into cafes with their own flasks when buying coffee.
Maybe it is cool to be seen with a cup bearing the cafe’s logo, but bear in mind that whether it is paper or plastic, it takes effort to recycle it.
Carrying our own flask reduces the amount of waste that needs to be recycled by that much.
It will be cooler to be the generation that could and did save the world from permanent damage.
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has warned that global wildlife populations have fallen by 60% in just four decades as accelerating pollution, deforestation, climate change and other man-made factors create a “mindblowing” crisis.
WWF UK chief executive Tanya Steele was quoted as saying: “We are the first generation to know we are destroying our planet, and the last one that can do anything about it”.
Notice how hot the weather is now and how each year, it seems to get hotter?
Notice your grandparents grumbling about how “it never used to be this hot”?
What can we do to change? Simple, start with the 3Rs.
Every time we use something, we should be mindful and consider if it can be reused, or replaced with something reusable, or recycled into something else instead of blindly tossing it in the bin.
One great example is this man I recently met. He keys in your details into his phone as soon as you pass him your business card and then he gives you your card back, telling you it is his bit to save the environment.
Be like that man, I sure want to be more like him.