PETALING JAYA: As more people shop online due to movement restrictions from the Covid-19 pandemic, waste from e-commerce packaging is also increasing.
Hence, environmentalists are urging the public to recycle carton boxes, mailer bags and bubble wraps.
Malaysian Nature Society president Prof Dr Ahmad Ismail said plastic was already part and parcel of daily life.
However, he said the indiscriminate disposal of plastic waste would inadvertently “come full circle” when microplastics entered the food chain.
“We use plastic for everything and now with the movement restrictions, people buy things online.
“So, people need to be aware that if this is not disposed of properly, it will cause problems to our health, the environment and ultimately, this goes into the ocean and affect marine animals,” he said in an interview.
Dr Ahmad said plastic used for online purchases was to protect as well as act as a “shock absorber” for goods, adding that this must be “sorted and separated” from general waste during disposal.
“You either reuse or recycle it but don’t dump it together with general waste,” he said.
Environment and waste management specialist Dr Theng Lee Chong believes that there is a huge amount of plastic waste being discarded although he has no information on the exact quantity.
He said although people would commonly recycle carton delivery boxes, plastic wrappers and bubble wraps were hardly recycled.
“Most people would just throw it away and this for sure will reach our landfills. This means that it will forever be there because it is plastic,” he said.
Bubble wrappers, said Dr Theng, could be recycled because these were often labelled with explanations on the type of plastic used in the manufacture, as well as be reused by giving them away to shops with online business.
“With these kinds of issues, we need guidelines and more stringent requirements to control what kind of materials are used by the companies,” he said.
Theng said although members of the public could not control the type of packaging they received when buying food and items online, they should research on what could and could not be recycled.
“As a consumer, the best you can do is to either reuse or recycle it,” he said, urging the government to set guidelines and educate businesses on the impact of plastic and their responsibilities.
Earlier this year, SWM Environment Sdn Bhd corporate affairs general manager Mohd Norlisam Mohd Nordin said that with online purchases ranked as the top choice among consumers during the various movement restrictions, they expected the dumping of plastic packages to continue to increase.
With plastic waste taking about 400 years to decompose, Mohd Norlisam said generating too much of this would make landfill sites compact as well as shorten their life spans.
He also pointed out that there was a 20% increase in plastic waste recorded in 2018 compared to 2005.
Online shopper J. Ruth said she tried to recycle as much as she could.
“Even before the movement restriction, I have always recycled the plastic and the carton boxes I received.
“I think this is just civic consciousness and I am just doing my part to help the environment,” said the 28-year-old public relations executive.
A sales executive, who only wanted to be known as Yong, said she found recycling difficult as there were no such facilities in her housing area.
“I do separate the rubbish but I would just leave this outside the house for the waste disposal people to collect it.
“Sometimes, I noticed that they would just dump them all together with general waste. So, I am actually not sure if it is being recycled. I hope it is but I don’t know,” said the 33-year-old.