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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Green Movement

I express my utmost relief and support towards this new move by the Housing and Local Government Ministry “Ministry plans 10sen a bottle incentive for public to recycle”( Tuesday September 16, 2008). It is a relief to know that something concrete is being done for the nation amid the current state of affairs sidetracking nation building. When bottled drink manufacturers set up collection centres, the process of manufacturing, distribution, and recycling comes full circle.

According to data compiled by Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM), the content of plastic materials in a municipal solid waste (MSW) has been estimated at 7-12 percent in weight, representing 18-30 percent in volume. Thus, the move is timely and will certainly help to reduce the trash load. However, the location of the centres needs to be strategic and accessible, taking a lesson from the placement of our brown, orange and blue recycling bins that leave much to be desired.

It should also be noted that it is apathy, and not lack of incentives that slows down the green movement. Education is still the key here and recycling campaigns at the school level are the way forward. Policy makers should take a cue from competitions such as Toyota Eco Youth programme which is a success while The-Star itself should have a “Campaign For A Green Earth”, mirroring its current effort :Campaign 4 Rewards(C4R) with this year’s theme “Going Green — Making a Positive Impact on the Environment.” In contrast, “Campaign For A Green Earth” will have a central reoccurring theme. (The theme for C4R changes every year.)

While on the topic of recycling, it is extremely disheartening to see polystyrene products being used so wantonly, knowing that polystyrene waste will still be an eyesore three, four or five generations later. When there is an alternative to polystyrene such as “Ecopak”, a Malaysian company that produces packaging products made from oil palm fibre (www.ecopak.com.my), the government should support such local establishments by introducing a tax on imported petroleum
by-products i.e. plastics, polystyrene and thus encourage the use of biodegradable products. In fact, this technology/product can be exported en masse, boosting our nations economy. Having said that, I am in no way whatsoever connected to the company in mention.

Besides that, by imposing a surcharge of ten cents per plastic bag used at shopping centres, consumers will be compelled to bring shopping bags of their own. Such is the policy of Carrefour, to be followed by a few hypermarkets in Qatar; Geant Supermarket in Dubai-taking note that Dubai and the rest of United Arab Emirates are huge investors in the petroleum sector-; and the whole of China starting June 1. In Malaysia, individual hypermarket chains may be reluctant to initiate the move for fear of being alone in the cause and incurring consumer wrath, but if the government steps in and makes it a common policy among all the hypermarkets, the move would likely be successful.

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