WE refer to your recent report “Avoid using polystyrene containers, temples urged” (The Star, Jan 18).
Polystyrene (PS) food containers have always been used in packing free food given to the devotees during Thaipusam because it is convenient, affordable and safe to use. PS foam has been certified under the Malaysian Food Act 1983 (Act 281) and by Sirim for use as a food contact packaging material. The fact that developed countries such as the United States, Japan and in the EU, which have very strict food contact legislation, have been using and continue to use PS foam proves that PS food containers are not hazardous.
PS is categorised as one of the recyclable materials under the National Waste Segregation policy which was implemented in September 2015. As a product that is 100% recyclable, PS foam is not meant to be thrown into landfills but should be collected and recycled instead.
The reason behind the yearly aftermath of piles of rubbish lying around after Thaipusam is mainly because there are insufficient rubbish bins provided for the public to throw their rubbish in. The bins provided are usually already overflowing at an early part of the day as waste collection on the site is severely hampered by the massive crowd attending the event, which prevents the garbage trucks from entering the site. Consequently, this leads to extensive littering.
All in all, the root cause to all these problems is due to the challenges of waste management in a place that is jam packed with people. No matter what type of food packaging is being used, it will end up as litter on the ground unless the issue of waste management is addressed.
The Malaysian Plastics Manufacturers Association (MPMA) is holding the “Litter Free Thaipusam 2016” campaign for the second consecutive year to urge the public not to be litterbugs and to educate them on waste segregation.
More than 360 volunteers in teams will be stationed at various locations throughout Batu Caves equipped with special bins for the devotees and public to segregate and dispose their waste according to two categories – recyclables including PS, and others.
These special bins are fitted with a large plastic bag that can be easily removed and bagged for subsequent collection while a new bag can be easily fitted over to accommodate more waste.
In 2015, this campaign successfully reduced 40% of manpower needed for cleaning up Batu Caves during Thaipusam.
Rather than blame any particular material, a change in the public mindset and improvements in waste management system will generate a more positive outlook on this problem in the long run.
Let’s pledge together to protect the environment by doing two simple things – stop littering and practise the 3Rs: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
DATUK LIM KOK BOON
President, Malaysian Plastics Manufacturers Association