July 30, 2016

Each of Us can help Solve the problems of Littering and Plastic Waste

Each of Us can help Solve the problems of Littering and Plastic Waste

A Malaysian grocery store abides by the "no plastic bags day" campaign. Photo Credit: Plastic News

Insufficient waste management has long plagued Malaysia. So have the mounting piles of waste in its myriad forms: food waste, plastic waste, electronic waste. Over the past decade or so alone municipal solid waste has doubled.

Much of that waste ends up at landfills, from where it continues to leach into the environment, blown by winds and washed away by rain. Yet Malaysians carry on wasting precious resources and littering with wanton abandon. In some states like Sabah littering has become so bad that only drastic measures can alleviate the problem. They include a “green tax” on hotels, heftier fines for litterbugs, and anti-littering campaigns. Yet all these initiatives have so far borne mixed results for a simple reason: people continue littering and befouling their state’s beautiful environment.

The authorities in Perak and Johor have in turn decided to solve the problem of excessive plastic waste locally by phasing out the use of plastic and polystyrene. They are following in the footsteps of Penang and Malacca, which have banned the use of plastic bags outright. Costumers are required to bring along their own shopping bags, while manufacturers are encouraged to reduce the use of plastic packaging for their products. The move has been necessary because local landfills are overflowing.

These are commendable measures. What is needed, however, are coordinated campaigns to tackle waste on a national level. One such measure has been the federal government’s decision to designate Saturday a “no plastic bag day” across the nation. But why not declare every day of the week a no plastic bag day? That’s exactly what Darshan Singh Dhillon, president of the Malaysia Consumers Movement (MCM), recommends.

The plan should be instituted in stages so as to allow time for consumers to adjust to the idea of shopping without the use of plastic bags. People should be encouraged to employ reusable bags, which should be made available at retail outlets, MCM suggests. Most importantly, however, Malaysians from all walks of life ought to be educated that they are individually responsible for reducing waste.

“Continuous education and awareness campaigns on the negative effects of littering will lead to a change in the public mindset and attitude towards waste issues,” Darshan explains. “[T]he MCM urges all consumers to discharge our individual role and responsibility by embracing environmental friendly practices in our daily lives,” the NGO head adds. “If we change our attitude we will be able to witness tangible results. Protecting the environment is not solely the responsibility of the government and positive results can never be achieved if we do not work collaboratively.”

Change, he sums up, “must begin with us.” Indeed it must.

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