PETALING JAYA: Last year, Malaysians produced close to 3 million tonnes of waste.
But shockingly, out of this huge amount, only 0.06% or about 1,800 tonnes were recycled while the rest were sent to landfills.
This is according to data from the Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Corporation (SWCorp) collected from January to November throughout 2018.
The data for December last year is still being collected.
SWCorp also noted that on a monthly basis last year, Malaysians produced an average of 236,000 tonnes of waste while only an average of 150 tonnes, or 0.06%, were recycled monthly.
Environmentalists say the sheer amount of waste generated was a concern and that it must be tackled at the source via public action and education.
To encourage recycling, Society of Greater Eco Melawati chairman Dr Dhileepan Nair suggested a bottle or container deposit policy to be implemented here, like in the United States.
In the US, bottle deposits are generally charged on plastic and glass bottled beverage containers or aluminium cans from carbonated beverages purchased in retail stores such as groceries and liquor stores.
In some states, water bottles are also included.
“Customers then can simply bring the empty bottles and cans to a local recycling centre or back to the grocery stores to get their deposits back, which is normally a few sen per container.
“This would encourage recycling as there is a financial incentive to it.
“If you add a deposit to the cans or bottles, people will value them more and not just throw them away,” he said.
The government could spend money on waste management facilities but it would not solve the problem at the root, he added.
Environmental expert Prof Dr Maketab Mohamed said there is a need to fully implement environmental education in the school system to ensure awareness of the environment starts early.
“Malaysians in general lack environmental awareness to conserve nature and reduce usage of resources, among others.
“Therefore environmental education needs to be fully implemented in our school system and not the half-baked, touch and go, band-aid version they have now,” he said when contacted.
Prof Dr Maketab said without environmental awareness it would be very hard to implement new environmental initiatives.
“Whatever happened to the waste segregation programme which was supposed to be implemented and enforced more than a year ago?” he questioned.
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