SATURDAYS are always fun at home for our family. It’s the only opportunity for us to focus on housekeeping and organising our little home.
One of our key activities is sorting out our recyclable items. Till now, I am always in awe of the amount of solid waste we accumulate at home, even when we try our best to shop, buy and throw less.
Plastics seem to take up the most amount of space, from shampoo bottles to cooking oil containers, and plastic wrappers and packaging of all shapes, colours and sizes.
We are lucky as we don’t subscribe to newspapers at home, so we don’t have to deal with stacks of newspapers. Sometimes online subscription to news agencies do have its benefits, and in this case, we don’t need to sacrifice space for old newspapers.
When the Government made the announcement on Nov 15, 2014 that waste separation at source would be mandatory in 2015, I couldn’t be more excited. In fact, I was there at Universiti Putra Malaysia when I heard this announcement delivered by the Urban Well-being, Housing and Local Government Ministry’s secretary-general, Datuk Seri Arpah Abdul Razak.
At last, recycling or waste separation could be taken seriously and on a bigger scale and, for once, my family would not be the oddity in my neighbourhood.
I totally applaud this effort by the Urban Well-being, Housing and Local Government Ministry, but I do have some questions.
1. For the nation to take waste separation at source seriously, education plays a very important role. Whatever happened to the “Think before You Throw” campaign? Remember those jingles that played non-stop on the radio (“Blue is for paper, la la la”)? Where did we fall short? Was it due to lack of effort? Or was it lack of resources? A huge amount of money has been spent in campaigns and public awareness programmes but communication and communicating the right message takes a lot of resources. Malaysians are not going to be “more aware” when the Government advertises on billboards, increases number of advertisements in buses and so forth. Communication and education takes a whole load of resources but having said these, the right strategy must also be in place. If we really want to take waste separation to a whole new level and increase our recycling rate from the 12% today to, say, 30% tomorrow, this would require a stronger and better allocation of resources to get this off the ground. Thus, I do hope that the Urban Well-being, Housing and Local Government Ministry together with the Education Ministry would consider working strategically to instil such habitual change in the lives of our children in schools. Many of us adults today don’t do waste separation because we probably were not moulded to think so. It’s pertinent to tally our efforts today and have these positive efforts resonate naturally in the future generations or else such regulations would only be doomed for failure.
2. In the case of a household not abiding to this rule, how is the Ministry going to enforce fines and warnings? I would like to be enlightened on this as this may serve as a point of reference for people who are still sitting on the fence. How will the RM1000 fines be implemented? Would there be warnings issued prior to giving a fine? What are the legal implications? If a company is found not to abide by this rule, how does enforcement of the fine relate to the Environment Court? Or does it at all? A simple infographic would go a long way to help us, the rakyat, understand the implications of not abiding to the waste separation rule.
3. With the wastes that will be separated at home and then collected by SWCorp contractors, how are the recyclables going to be treated? Does SWCorp have sufficient materials recovery facilities and what are the processes for materials recovery? As a person who fulfils her responsibility of waste separation at home, I am really curious to know what happens once these recyclable items I discard are taken away. Come to think of it, how does SWCorp or the Ministry calculate the country’s recycling rate? I can’t help but feel like I need to know the entire process. After all, this will definitely get me feeling more confident of this approach by the Ministry.
4. Let’s have a blueprint for the country. Assuming waste separation at source is properly monitored by the Government, what are the next steps forward? Would companies then be required to do the same? What about government agencies across all ministries? How do we measure this KPI for the country? For more avid eco-conscious individuals like me, we are already looking forward to food waste separation, composting and disposal. Would this be in 2017? 2020 perhaps?
Either way, it would be great to have all the plans communicated well to the general public to allow all of us to understand the processes of addressing waste accordingly. In addition, this provides a clearer perspective on where the nation is heading.
President, EcoKnights Kuala Lumpur and Selangor
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