October 27, 2015

Shopping Center Leads the Way for Recycling in Malaysia

Shopping Center Leads the Way for Recycling in Malaysia

IPC Shopping Center has gotten all 180 of its component businesses to recycle and reuse waste. Photo Credit: Phalinn Ooi

Tackling the serious issues of poor recycling rates and waste management in Malaysia, a large shopping center in the bustling city of Petaling Jaya has championed the three R’s (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) with a recycling and used product buy-back program.

Home to 180 ‘tenants’ (shops and vendors like Ace Hardware, Starbuck’s and Toys “R” Us), IPC Shopping Center became the first of its kind in Malaysia’s when it opened its doors in December of 2003.  For six years now, the IKEA-owned emporium has been involving all 180 tenants in its Recycling and Buy-Back Center.

Collecting and segregating waste from its member vendors, the center recycles cardboard, newspaper, magazines, plastic and aluminum, also providing proper disposal for batteries, light bulbs and compact fluorescent lights.  IPC’s tenants create a total of 114 tons of waste every month, so that translates into a lot of recycling.

A video from IPC’s Recycling and Buy-Back Center

The buy-back program is also a success.  Common household and retail business items collected at the center are sold back to individuals and businesses at a low price, creating savings for buyers, saving costs on the recycling process and providing some cash for the center itself.  An inspiring 1,800kg of magazines, 1,500kg of newspapers and 250kg of plastics are sold back this way each month.

“The buy-back center operates at its own cost with any revenue received, reinvested into the center to improve our recycling services and other sustainability efforts,” said Center marketing manager Karyn Lim.

“We also use it for handling fees of certified specialist subcontractors who know how to recycle specific materials using a bulb-eater machine, which crushes the bulbs, coats them with neutralizing chemicals then seals them in cement.”

IPC’s program is a happy departure from the larger picture of waste management in Malaysia.  Of the roughly 30,000 tons of waste produced in Malaysia, only 10% is recycled.  The other 90% goes to open-air landfills that contribute to surface and groundwater contamination through leaching, soil contamination through direct contact, air pollution through garbage burning (intentional or not), disease spread through birds, insects and rodents, uncontrolled release of greenhouse gases and of course, a very unpleasant odor.  Illegal dumping is also a large problem, and is contaminating rivers and poisoning marine wildlife.

Malaysia is attempting to address these problems, which will creep up on Malaysia’s ability to develop if they aren’t taken care of.  As of September 1 this year, a mandatory recycling program was instated.  This initiative is addressing recycling at the household level, but over half of the waste produced in Malaysia is industrial or commercial rather than residential.

IPC Shopping Center is setting an important example for commercial recycling.  For a cleaner, healthier, more beautiful and economically sound Malaysia, other businesses should follow IPC’s lead.

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