[Environmental Alert] Reduce, Reuse and Recycle leads to a sustainable life

by - August 11, 2017

When I travel overseas, I noticed that the locals are very concerned about their environment, and thus are serious about conservation efforts which includes reducing, reusing and recycling their waste. Substancec like plastic which is a non-biodegradable item will adversely affect the lands, river, and oceans as well. Currently, my country has imposed a ban whereby you cannot use polystyrene anymore and there is also no plastic day in certain states in Malaysia.

The state of Selangor has imposed a 20 sen charge per plastic bag when you shop at the supermarkets and retails store. Most of the consumers don't really know that the actual intention behind the charge is to educate consumers on the importance of reducing the usage of plastic bags. In addition to that, the 20 sen charge per plastic bag goes to environmental conservation efforts. As the ban has now been in effect since beginning of the year, I normally prepare a reusable bag during my grocery shopping and I noticed many shoppers doing the same too.

According to the BBC report, the scientist say that about 8 million tonnes of plastic waste was drawn into the world's ocean each year. What a huge number! The amount of the waste was approximately like 34times of the size of New York's Manhattan Island to ankle depth.This could be possible threat to the food chain as the plastics broken down into tiny fragments into the ocean. The Plymouth Marine Laboratory have tested out that when the minuscule particles of plastic are in the water m the creature at the bottom of the food chain will ingest them. [Ref: http://www.bbc.com/news/av/science-environment-34415464/plastic-in-oceans-threatens-food-chain]

So if you throw a plastic bag indiscriminately, then the fish will eat it, and eventually, you will consume the fish and end up getting sick and even worse may cause you stomach/gastro intestinal cancer. Think about yourself before you throw it!

How about total ban on polystyrene containers? 

The polystyrene products especially food packaging widely commonly used and this was a hazard to the environment when disposed of as it also a non-biodegradable substance too. The polystyrene lunchboxes have represented the most versatile, economical, user-friendly and effective product in the takeaway of food as it can insulate the heat of food whereby the food can maintain the hot temperature and the user holding without filling any heat.Polystyrene was a light material and floats on water and in fact, the authorities attributed the indiscriminate disposal of polystyrene lunch boxes into the river and lead to the cause of flash floods in the Klang Valley during torrential downpours due to the presence of polystyrene lunch boxes floating around and making the drain blocked. 

Therefore, what is the alternative when polystyrene lunchboxes are banned?

Hawkers now use solid plastic lunchboxes that contribute up to 3 times more to the waste problem as plastic lunchboxes are 15-16 grams in weight as compared to polystyrene lunchboxes which are 4-5 grams in weight.A country’s “solid waste” and “waste management” is measured in metric tons and thanks to the use of solid plastic lunchboxes, we are now contributing 3 times more in terms of waste which is actually more detrimental to the environment.

Plastic lunchboxes also use 3 times more plastic resin than polystyrene lunchboxes, meaning more raw materials are used to produce them starting with the petrochemical plants that contribute heavily to pollution. The machines need to consume 4 times more electricity to manufacture the plastic lunchboxes when compare to the manufacture of the polystyrene lunchboxes!

But the alternative product to polystyrene is actually worse for the environment! Right?!

Biodegradability and/or compostability means that the end-product can be broken down and degraded back to its molecular state. In fact, plastics actually have the potential to be biodegradable and compostable as well by using modern manufacturing techniques and additives. However, for the plastics to biodegrade back to its original base, the item must be carefully disposed and end up in a compost or landfill. Biodegradable, compostable or environmentally-friendly plastics of any kind that is indiscriminately disposed will NOT biodegrade and will continue to remain as their original state.

For example, if you keep a solid plastic container in your kitchen cabinet, it will stay as a solid plastic container in your kitchen cabinet for years and not biodegrade.

So, what then is the solution for this problem?

As much as it would pain our authorities to admit, but our neighbors country have the solution.

“The Government will not impose a ban on them in consideration of other factors, such as the cost of alternatives and inconvenience to hawkers and consumers, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor said on Monday (9 May 2016).”

“Dr Khor said that while polystyrene foam packaging may be of concern in some countries where waste is landfilled, it is incinerated safely in Singapore at waste-to-energy incineration plants, which are fitted with pollution control equipment.”[Ref: http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/environment/no-ban-on-using-styrofoam-packaging-but-hawkers-discouraged-from-using-it-amy] But, there have been studies done to show that in many instances, the alternative still not so environmentally friendly.[Ref: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/paper-cups-not-an-environmentally-friendly-option-here-either-ex-7540186]

The best alternative is to bring your own tiffin carrier, mug or tumbler.  Do you agree?!

Solution to the community

Seriously, we need to have a big change before the environment become worse. We should learn on how to take care of our environment and litter everywhere. This kind of practice should be instilled in an early stage and in all levels -  the government, corporate and the civil society. Besides that, more enforcement has to be taken against the polystyrene pollution especially having more enforcement officer at the construction site, commercial, F&B outlets and even the residential area.

The change won’t happen overnight however like the 20 sen charge for plastic bags, consumers will slowly realize the importance of looking after the environment and the effect might trickle into other aspects of life – making Malaysian a country of people with a conscience.

China lifted its ban on polystyrene back in 2013 after a 14-year long ban. Perhaps it’s time our authorities should consider whether this ban is actually helping the environment or not, and if it’s not, stop the ineffective ban and think for other useful solution.

In addition, our local authorities should look up other countries like Norway where their government has installed the electricity-generating incinerators which transform its trash and waste into energy – doing away with the need for fossil fuels to power the power plants thus solving the issue of insufficient landfills and rising energy costs.

Lastly, protect the environment is all depends on us whether want to do the 3R's. In fact, we need to think about future generation and start to change our mind. A better environment leads to a sustainable life! 


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