PETALING JAYA: Environmentalists are urging the public to think twice before ordering a takeaway that comes with a lot of packaging or disposable cutlery, in view of the mounting amount of solid waste.
“Takeaways always come with single-use plastic cutlery and packaging, and the rising food gifting trend has also contributed to this wastage,” said EcoGarage co-founder and education head Sharmaine XinHui Kaur.
“Plastic never disappears and only degrades into microplastics, which are present in the air, food and water we consume,” said Sharmaine, 24, adding that snowballing plastic pollution would make it back to the consumer.
“As the pandemic has left many with financial struggles, this aggravates plastic pollution as single-use plastics are still a cheap and convenient option for many.
“Right now, it is difficult for businesses to adopt bioplastics due to the higher cost. The government should incentivise those actively trying to reduce their carbon footprint,” said Sharmaine, who called upon local businesses to explore ways to reduce their plastic footprint by starting with a plastic waste audit.
Tropical Rainforest Conservation and Research Centre volunteer Devakumaran Devanesan, 23, claimed that a lot (plastic cutlery) was made of low-quality, non-recyclable plastic.
“This creates wastage and pollution that affects the soil, river and ocean wildlife, poisoning earth’s living beings,” said Devakumaran, who suggested that while many were aware of the issue, they choose to prioritise convenience instead.
He proposed the imposition of a significant surcharge for those using disposable cutlery and packaging.
“Implementing a low price like 20 sen will not work. If eateries charge higher prices for the convenience of disposable packaging, then people will think twice,” he added.
Aina Muhd Shahrulmiza, a postgraduate environmental science student, highlighted several initiatives that are already in place.
“Nowadays, eateries will ask before providing cutlery and bags to go. Food delivery platforms like Grab have made cutlery optional, and the Selangor government has also phased out plastic straws,” said Aina, 21, who called for more change in view of the takeaway culture here.
“Delivery providers can go a step further and provide incentives for vendors who comply with stricter plastic reduction.
“The government may even facilitate the procurement of more sustainable alternatives to replace disposable tableware and packaging,” she said.
Other members of the public have also noticed the excessive plastic cutlery in their homes which will likely go to waste.
Corporate executive Ahmad Syarafi, 24, said that most of the cutlery in his house comes from takeaways.
“We’ll probably end up throwing them away when we clean the house,” he said.
Content creator Jamie Yong said recent festivities had also contributed to the issue.
“We usually refuse cutlery when getting takeaways. However, we’ve received plenty of plastic knives and forks, thanks to the recent mooncake festival,” she said.
An interior designer, who only wanted to be known as Xindy, also faces the same problem.
“Most of the cutlery came with the mooncake packaging and was not optional.
“This year, we have more than 10 plastic knives from mooncakes alone, not counting those from previous years.
“They’re left untouched because we always reach for the stainless steel cutlery at home,” said Xindy, adding that consumers were equally responsible for this problem.
“I think consumers should take more initiative to live sustainably, instead of just relying on restaurant owners to change their default takeaway options,” she said.