Study shows low rate of recycling plastic bottles in M’sia

PETALING JAYA: Only 16% of PET bottles in Malaysia are collected for recycling purposes, a study found.

PET is polyethylene terephthalate, a strong and lightweight material that is one of the most recyclable forms of plastic packaging and is mainly used for mineral water and carbonated drinks.

GA Circular, an organisation specialising in packaging and food waste research, estimated that Malaysia’s PET bottles recycling rate is lower than the average among the six Asean countries studied.

Besides Malaysia, the other five countries included in GA Circular’s report are Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand and Myanmar.Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand are among the top 10 global contributors to ocean plastic pollution.

GA Circular estimated that the average national recycling rate of the six countries stands at 26%, while another 26% of PET bottles go to landfills and 48% leaked into the environment. The average recycling rate of these countries is way below the global average, which stands at 55% as at 2012.

The report also added that in 2018 about 660,000 tonnes of PET bottles were dumped at landfills or leaked to the environment across the six countries, representing a total loss of material value of US$199mil (RM825mil).

In one year, Malaysia “gains” an estimated US$1mil (RM4.14mil) in value for PET bottles collected for recycling, but “loses” US$2mil (RM8.3mil) in value to landfills and another US$1mil in value to leakage.

The reason behind such a trend, the report added, is due to a heavy reliance on informal sector workers such as recyclables collectors.

The report suggested that while governments have a role to play in drawing up recycling policies, some costs and responsibilities must be given to the producers of the packaging.

“Obligations on the producer could include a collection (“take-back”) of product packaging, or a financial responsibility for the costs of proper waste management of the packaging, or rules governing methods of waste management of recovered packaging, ” it said.

The report also found that while the separation of waste on a municipal level is crucial in the long run, its effectiveness is limited in the immediate term.

As at 2018, only 18% of household respondents in Kuala Lumpur separated their waste although it was mandatory to do so.

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