By Leanne Tan, Tan Mei Kuan and Ili Aqilah
Early this year, the Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Corporation (SWCorp Malaysia) released a shocking statistic of the amount of rubbish dumped by Malaysia every day. Approximately, 37,000 tons of rubbish is produced by Malaysians every day, which means we made 13.5 million tons of rubbish: equivalent to 30,000 Airbus A380s.
With such an appalling statistic, Ipoh Echo feels it is time for all of us to take charge, be in control of the waste we create and to really start caring for the environment. Ignorance may be bliss sometimes but definitely not when it comes to Mother Earth.
Many Ways the Community Can Contribute
According to Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Corporation (SWCorp) Perak, Perakeans generate about 1968 tonnes of solid waste each day, out of which 787.2 tonnes (40 per cent) are food wastes. With the on-going Raya celebrations, the fact that massive piles of food wastes are generated every day, is enough to send chills down the spines of many.
Food wastes that end up in landfills emit a large amount of methane, a hazardous greenhouse gas that absorbs infrared radiation and heats up the earth’s atmosphere, resulting in global warming and climate change.
Maggie Ong, Chairperson of Malaysian Association of Hotels (Perak Chapter) and Director of Syeun Hotel Ipoh, claims that Syeun Hotel practises batch cooking to minimise the amount of leftover food.
“We seldom have leftover food from our buffets but when we do, it’s usually shared among our kitchen staff, so as to prevent any food wastage. Occasionally, we donate them to the homeless,” said Ong.
Four years ago, the hotel began imposing a RM5 fine on guests for every 200g of food wasted as part of educating them to control their food portions and not to be greedy.
Hannah Soh, a student at Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR), makes use of organic food wastes such as fruit peels to make enzymes that can be used as liquid cleaning detergents. “My family looked up the web for recipes to make enzymes as we wanted to save costs on detergents. After all, it’s eco-friendly too,” said the bubbly 18-year-old.
Aside from solid food wastes, improper disposal of cooking oil and grease affects the environment as well.
Oil and grease that are poured down the drain, mix with other chemicals in the sewers form nasty conglomerations of chemicals. Over time, these chemicals build up and block the pipes, obstructing the flow of water. If the oil and fats make it to the rivers and ocean, it will cause marine pollution.
Chef Simon Lee of Citrus Wine & Dine plays his part in caring for the environment by disposing used oil and grease properly.
“We collect the oil from our deep fryers and exhaust in large containers placed at the back of the kitchen. Once the containers are full, we sell the oil to an oil recycling service that converts it into useful biofuel,” Lee explained.
According to Lee, the restaurant has been selling used oil and grease to oil recycling services since its inception 12 years ago in 2005.
“This method of dealing with used oil was a common practice when I was doing my apprenticeship in Singapore. It helps to protect the environment and prevent drains from clogging,” Lee told Ipoh Echo.
In collaboration with various hotels in the state, SWCorp Perak introduced the “Value Food No Waste” programme in 2014 in efforts to cut down on food waste.
Plastic Wastes: The hardest wastes
SWCorp Perak revealed that Perakeans generate an average of 110.2 tonnes of plastic wastes a day.
As plastics are not biodegradable, most plastics do not disappear, but become long-lasting “plastic dust”. When items like plastic bags break down, they readily soak up (and release) toxins that contaminate soil and water. Over a million sea birds, whales, seals, dolphins and sea turtles die from ingesting plastic debris that end up in our oceans and seas.
Ipohite Siew Viann who’s currently pursuing a degree in Economics at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, makes an effort to reuse, reduce and recycle plastics to help save the planet.
“I discard plastic bottles into recycle bins and reuse plastic bags as trash bags,” said Viann.
“I bring recycle bags along when I go shopping. Sometimes, if the items are small and manageable, I will carry them in my hands without using any plastic bags,” she added.
Professor Dr Richard Ng, chairman of Ipoh City Watch, expressed disappointment over the state government’s decision to put on hold the ban on polystyrene containers and plastic bags which was supposed to be implemented on June 1.
“I believe the decision to postpone the ban was made due to Ramadan as many traders are still dependent on polystyrene and plastic packaging.
“In my opinion, the ban should have been carried out. Initially people will find it difficult to adhere, but we have to educate them on the dangers of using plastics and polystyrene so that they will stop using them,” Dr Richard told Ipoh Echo.
Dr Richard added that everyone should treat the environment as their responsibility.
“People should not think that it’s the government’s responsibility to keep the environment clean. If everybody thinks this way, our country will never be clean. I believe that if everyone plays their part, our landfills will be less cluttered,” said Dr Richard.
SWCorp Perak has also launched two campaigns, “Reuse” and “Mangkuk Tingkat” (Tiffins), to encourage the public to use recycle bags when shopping for supplies or groceries, and to bring along their own containers and tiffin carriers when buying food.
Recycling efforts in Meru Valley Resort began in the year 2010 in which recycling activities are conducted bimonthly for the residents and members of the resort. Excluding recycling of household wastes, members and residents will gather their recyclable materials at the car park area behind the clubhouse just behind Café 28. Aurora Recycle Facility is assigned to collect the recyclables from the resort.
Employee education is integral to the resort’s initiatives. For instance, staff are educated on the proper usage of recycle bins, to print double-sided instead of one-sided for paper saving (mandatory) and encouraged to bring mugs or cups to the office instead of using disposable paper or plastic ones.
The management is equally committed via continuous monitoring of the volume and types of recyclables that are being collected. Plus, all receptacles and bins are well-marked for guests and staff. The materials recycled include papers, cardboards, bottles and printer toner cartridges from the administrative side and cans, recyclable containers, glass and other waste materials from the food services area. Styrofoam has been replaced with microwave reheatable boxes since 2015 for packing food.
Members and residents have been giving their tremendous support as every week the recycling bins get filled up. Every month, about 400kg of recyclables are collected (paper box – 60%, used paper – 15%, old newspaper – 10% and others – 15%).
Meru Valley Resort is committed to reducing its carbon footprint and becoming one of the eco-friendliest resorts in the state. Thus the resort also joined the millions of people, businesses and landmarks around the world to shine a light on climate action by hosting a series of Earth Hour events at the resort throughout the month of March.
Meanwhile, conceptualized as the epitome of an ecological friendly development, Meru Valley EcoVillage is a prime residential enclave with eco-friendly features. For instance, the villas are equipped with the rainwater harvesting system that will recycle rain water while the townhouses have energy saving solar heaters. Thanks to its extra windows at a high level, all residents will get to enjoy natural sunlight and ventilation.
Recycle, Reuse and Reform
There are many ways to treat your rubbish and waste. Aside from sending it to the nearest recycling centre (Refer to IE 259 Cover Story: Recycling in Ipoh: Beyond The Bin) there are ways you can do it yourself! There are a lot of ideas available on YouTube videos or Pinterest accounts where ideas are being shared about how to reuse and reform your waste.
For example, used plastic bottles can be used as flower pots, stationery cases or even watering cans if you know how to do it. Among famous YouTube accounts you can check for DIY inspirations are I Like Stuff, Make, Kipkay, Tech Builder, Household Hacker, Scotty Kilmer and Steve Ramsay who is known for his woodworking, carpentry and even steel-bending. You can also check out Buzzfeed and Nifty websites for inspiration as well.
What are we doing?
In line with the federal government’s aspirations and our Prime Minister’s pledge in the Paris Accord and New Urban Agenda, Ipoh City Council (MBI) is promoting various projects such as the Low Carbon City Framework and Ipoh Car Free Day to raise awareness on environmental care.
According to Ipoh City Council Town Planning Director, Zulqarnain Mohamad, MBI is promoting and enforcing various green aspects in their building plan and road & drainage plan approvals through the Urban Stormwater Management (MSMA) manual and Rainwater Harvesting System (SPAH).
“Several of MBI’s latest projects, which include the Tanjung Rambutan wet market and Ipoh Convention Centre, have been using green technology,” Zulqarnain added.
For a better future
There can be as many campaigns and pledges done but without us, the public to join in and take initiative, the earth will slowly become hazardous and dangerous to live in. We are leaving a legacy for our children and those coming after us. It is important for everyone to take care of the environment because if it not us, who will?