‘Turn off the tap’ of plastic waste, govt urged

PETALING JAYA: A national approach to addressing plastic pollution should come with the reduced production of plastic materials, says an environmentalist.Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) research officer Mageswari Sangaralingam said that while the move to introduce new legislation to handle the problem is laudable, the issue needs to be addressed at source.

“We agree there is a need to seriously look into plastic disposal and pollution. However, there has to be a focus on production too.“If we keep on producing plastics, then we will keep generating more plastic waste. More plastics equal more pollution,” said Mageswari, who is also Sahabat Alam Malaysia senior researcher.

She added that putting an end to plastic pollution could also be done by stopping imports of plastic waste into the country.

“We have to turn off the tap to end plastic pollution. This means that we have to drastically reduce the production of plastics.

“We also need to stop importing plastic waste because the recycling process and residual waste that cannot be recycled are also contributing to plastic waste disposal and pollution,” she said, adding that the government should address gaps in existing policies and implementation.

Mageswari also said the best step is for the authorities to work towards a zero-waste policy.

“This will entail designing and managing products and processes to avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials. We need to conserve and recover all resources, and not dispose of them by burying, burning or incinerating.

“Eliminating problematic, unnecessary plastics by implementing a total ban, phase-out and restrictions is necessary,” she said, adding that a plastics-free delivery system should also be an area that could be improved on.

Mageswari was commenting on the recent announcement by Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability Minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad that his ministry was studying the need for specific legislation governing plastic waste due to gaps in the current framework.

Greenpeace Malaysia also welcomed the minister’s announcement, saying the national legal framework to phase out single-use plastics should focus on building and scaling reuse systems that can outperform single-use systems.

“By keeping products in use for as long as possible, we reduce the use of raw materials, cut carbon dioxide emission and energy use in production, and ease the pressure on overburdened recycling and waste management systems.

“Research has shown that reusable plastic packaging can be a financially-viable alternative to single-use plastic packaging if the right conditions apply,” the environmental group said in a statement.

It suggested that the proposed policy be named the “National Plastic Reduction Policy” to better articulate its core purpose.

Greenpeace Malaysia also recommended implementing and scaling up reuse and refill systems to transition away from single-use plastic, and eliminating all non-essential and unnecessary plastic use.

Recently, a study ranked Malaysia the highest among 109 countries in terms of its people consuming microplastics, and was among the top 10 for inhaling the most microplastic particles.

The study, published in the Environmental Science and Technology journal, found that Malaysians consume an average of 502.3mg of microplastics daily per capita, with more than 50% of this coming from eating fish.

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