RECENT incidents of illegal dumping of rubbish and even potentially hazardous chemicals into Sungai Klang have put the spotlight on the issue of gaps and weaknesses in Malaysia’s waste management system.
A lorry was recorded dumping household rubbish into the river and days later, 250 drums of glycerin were found on the river bank.
More recently, a local academic posted a video showing that illegal dumping has continued at a known site in a forest in Gombak even after local authorities were notified, and after the Gombak Public Works Department said it would seal off this and nine other illegal dumpsites in the area.
The illegal disposal of all types of waste is a serious leakage from the waste management system, and the source of pollution in rivers, seas and oceans.
Illegal dumping, whether into rivers or on idle land, threatens the environment and, in the long term, our health and safety. It also costs money, in the form of clean-ups or healthcare, or even a drop in the value of property in the vicinity. Ultimately, the bulk of this cost is borne by the public, either as taxpayers or customers.
In order to reduce illegal dumping, the authorities must examine and understand where and why such leakage occurs, and address the gaps in order to create an effective waste management for Malaysia.
To do this requires wider collaboration among all parties involved, from regulators to business and industry as well as consumers and households.
Regulators are not limited to the National Solid Waste Management Department and the Department of Environment, but include local authorities in every state as well as the Drainage and Irrigation Department.
Illegal dumping is driven by economic incentives and convenience, and the absence of punishment, or ineffective enforcement, as was demonstrated earlier this year with the plastic waste issue.
Illegal dumping, like littering, is also a behavioural issue which cannot be addressed through blanket bans. It must be addressed as an infrastructure and system design issue and not just as an enforcement issue.
Addressing and preventing illegal dumping and littering, will require a problem-solving approach, rather than knee-jerk measures like blanket bans.
Careful analysis must be applied to identify the right measure or policy intervention in the design of an effective waste management system, preventing pollution and protecting the environment.
These include economic and social incentives to facilitate and promote behaviour change, and not just physical facilities.
We also need a multi-stakeholder collaboration from all parties across the value chain from the government, brand owners, retailers, NGOs as well as consumers and industry.
Illegal dumping and litter are sources of environmental pollution, be it on land or at sea.
The Malaysian Plastics Manufacturers Association (MPMA) has advocated the proper disposal of rubbish and waste under our “Don’t be a Litterbug” campaign’s “Use a Bin” programme since 2012.
We need to continue our education efforts on proper waste disposal, practising the 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle) and more urgently, we need to work towards establishing an advanced plastics recycling industry for Malaysia.
Recycling is a core component of an effective waste management system and plays a vital role in protecting the environment.
It is the key element of the circular economy, a system that moves away from the old “take-make-use-throw” progression.
In a circular economy, waste becomes a valuable resource, to be recycled as raw material, made into new products and not thrown away. This reduces the need to extract more natural resources
and the impact on the environment.
MPMA and the Malaysian Plastics Recyclers Association are committed to developing a clean, vibrant and healthy plastics recycling industry that would boost the country’s recycling rate and contribute to a cleaner, greener Malaysia. But we cannot do this alone.
MALAYSIAN PLASTICS MANUFACTURERS ASSOCIATION
MALAYSIAN PLASTICS RECYCLERS ASSOCIATION