Public Taking Solid Waste Separation Ruling Lightly

By S. Kisho Kumari

KUALA LUMPUR, (Bernama) -- With just over a month to go before the implementation of the mandatory separation of household solid wastes, local environmental and consumer groups are appalled at the low levels of preparedness and public awareness of the new ruling, which comes into effect on Sept 1.

A good eight months have passed since the government's announcement in November last year that all households would have to segregate their solid wastes as required under the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act 2007. A compound of RM1,000 will be imposed on households from January 2016 if they fail to separate their wastes accordingly.

Under the new ruling, recyclable and non-recyclable wastes will have to be separated at the point of origin if households want their garbage to be collected by solid waste management concessionaires.

If properly implemented and enforced, it will see a reduction in the amount of solid wastes disposed at the various dumpsites and landfills in the country, besides helping to inculcate in the people the habit of recycling.

Presently, however, the public's state of readiness to incorporate the waste separation practice into their daily lives leaves a lot to be desired, and even those who are aware of the new ruling seem to be taking it lightly.

PUBLIC NOT READY

According to Malaysian Society of Waste Management and Environment President Prof Dr P. Agamuthu, the public was barely ready to adhere to the new ruling.

He claimed that many people did not even know how to go about separating their household wastes.

"Some sectors could be aware of this ruling but the general public appears to be unprepared. In short, I think the public is not ready," he told Bernama.

Malaysia Consumer Advisory Association Chairman M. Varatharajoo said many Malaysians have the tendency to take things very lightly and he hoped that the RM1,000 compound would act as a deterrent and compel them to make it a habit to separate their recyclable and non-recyclable wastes.

Association of Malaysian Green and Blue Environment Secretary Jaron Keng also lamented about the public's lack of preparedness for the mandatory waste separation come Sept 1.

He felt that there was a dire need to educate the public on the importance of cultivating environmentally-friendly habits in order to put a stop to overcrowding at the existing landfills which, he said, could pose health hazards.

WAIT AND SEE ATTITUDE

Under the new ruling, household solid wastes will have to be segregated in accordance with its composition, such as plastic; paper and cardboard; glass; metal; electronic and electrical appliances; clothes and shoes; food waste; and garden waste.

A random survey by Bernama showed that many people were adopting a "wait and see" attitude, preferring to wait until the new ruling was enforced.

"Oh really?", "How to separate?", "For what?", "Oh, I don't know about the new rule", and "When did the government announce this?" were among the typical responses from various interviewees when asked about the impending mandatory waste separation.

"I will see how my neighbours are going to do it because I don't really know how to separate the garbage... let me see how others are doing it," said housewife Aqilah Ibrahim, 48, who is from Kuala Lumpur.

Businessman A. Rajesh Kumar, 35, said since the ruling has yet to be implemented, it has not crossed his mind that he should start segregating his household wastes.

EFFECTIVE WASTE MANAGEMENT

Meanwhile, Agamuthu, who is also a senior professor at the Institute of Biological Sciences in Universiti Malaya, said the segregation of solid household wastes was fundamental and imperative for effective waste management.

He firmly believed that education was the only key to changing the people's attitudes.

"The general attitude towards waste disposal is deplorable. Some don't even use the dustbins that are placed in public areas and at shopping malls while others are indifferent to what they actually throw into these bins," he said.

He said effective waste management would be beneficial to the people as the environment would be cleaner with less wastes being dumped into the landfills.

"We are generating about 35,000 tonnes of municipal wastes daily and all these go to landfills throughout Malaysia. These wastes have a large impact on the environment, no thanks to the landfill leachate and gases which can cause extensive pollution and are hazardous to health as well," he said.

Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan had said in a statement on July 2 that the implementation of mandatory separation of household solid wastes was capable of reducing the amount of wastes sent to landfills by 40 percent. He, however, did not give a time frame as to when the reduction could be attained.

The minister was responding to Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan who disagreed with the implementation of the new ruling and said that it should be reconsidered as the public's awareness of the matter was still low.

-- BERNAMA