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November 2, 2010

More can be done to raise awareness of the 3Rs among Malaysians

GEORGE TOWN: Despite aggressive campaigns for a greener environment, the public’s attitude towards recycling still leaves much to be desired.

Penang has the highest recycling rate nationwide but at a mere 15%, it is at an unimpressive level.

The amount of solid waste generated in Malaysia was expected to increase to 30,000 tonnes daily in 2020.

Up till September last year, only 176 of the 290 landfills were operational.

And unfortunately, pollution control has been minimal. Most of them do not have leachate treatment facilities, thus leachate from these improperly designed landfills may pollute the environment, especially the surface and groundwater.

Garbage management at the dumpsites was also a big challenge as covering the waste with sand every day was expensive.

Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) School of Civil Engineering dean Dr Hamidi Abdul Aziz said the implementation of a fully-engineered, more economical and feasible sanitary landfill was necessary.

He stressed that the emphasis must be on source reduction rather than final disposal.

Recyclable material: A worker sorting out tin cans for recycling. 3R awareness is the first step in reducing waste before it reaches the landfill. 

“Recycling is an important factor in helping to reduce the demand on resources and the amount of waste requiring disposal by landfilling.”

He said that a good recovery of recyclable items could be obtained by installing a Materials Recovery Facilities (MRF).

“This plant will separate all recyclable items in a systematic manner which can then be recovered and processed for new products. This will also extend the lifespan of the landfill.

“Recycling through MRF and awareness will significantly increase the recycling rate in future,” he said.

Dr Hamidi said Malaysia’s standard of environmental efficiency in managing solid waste fell under the average category compared with other countries in the region .

He urged the Government to have a bigger budget allocation on waste management and environmental control.

“We still need time to educate people,” he said. “It will be good to adopt a ‘No Plastic Day’ nationwide while giving incentives to recycling companies.”

He stressed on the “golden principle in sustainable development”: Leave the world better than you found it, take no more than you need, try not to harm the environment, and make amends if you do.

Dr Hamidi said education was a key factor that influenced the success or failure of any waste minimisation programme, hence the need for an appropriate syllabus to be incorporated in the primary school curriculum.

“The 3R (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) campaign can only be effective through education. This may take years, so we should start as soon as possible.”

State Local Government Com­mittee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said the state was focusing on promoting the inverted pyramid version of the 3R initiative.

The regular 3R pyramid starts with “Recycle” at the base, “Reuse” in the middle and “Reduce” at the top.

“Reduce should form the wide pyramid base, so that there will be fewer items to recycle,” he said.

Penang Environment Working Group chairman Datuk Dr Ong Hean Tee said MRF could reduce landfill waste by 15% but ultimately, household recycling was more crucial.

“The 3R awareness is the first step in reducing waste before it even reaches the landfill,” said Dr Ong, who was the former technical consultant for Idaman Bersih Sdn Bhd - the company that manages the Pulau Burung landfill.

Special Report by The Star

 

 

  
 
 
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