The new Pakatan Harapan government has been urged to review the previous BN government’s policy of banning plastics as announced in April 2016 which was supposed to be enforced effective June 1, 2017.
However, due to objections from the business community, a deferment was announced by then Menteri Besar, Dato’ Seri DiRaja Dr Zambry Abd Kadir about a month before the enforcement date saying a thorough study was required.
In April 2016, the former MB said the total ban on plastic bags and polystyrene containers would be enforced in stages, starting with state government buildings, cafeterias, and functions to start using biodegradable containers every Friday from June last year. In the second stage, the ban was extended from weekly to daily. It was then extended to cover all municipal councils in the state. The final stage was the ban on polystyrene and plastic bags throughout the state.
If the government is serious about reducing carbon footprint and addressing climate change as one of the goals under the United Nations on Sustainable Development Goals, then a review is in order. There are two ways to do it: through enforcement and legislation and education.
In Perak with a population of 2.8 million now, a total of 200,000 tonnes of garbage is generated each year, out of this about 30 percent, or 65,000 tonnes, consists of plastics and polystyrene. There are over 2000 illegal dumpsites in Ipoh alone. As plastics take years to disintegrate, landfills and illegal dumpsites will keep piling up.
We need not wait for further studies as states such as Penang, Selangor, Melaka and Johor have implemented it successfully. It has to start with the government, the corporate sectors, the traders and plastic manufacturers, in that order.
The government must also engage environmental NGOs such as KOHIJAU and Ipoh City Watch which have been actively involved in educating the public, especially students to practise 3R (Reuse, Reduce, Recycle) and use recyclable shopping bags.
During the recent FIFA World Cup in Russia, Japanese fans, players and officials set good examples by picking up trash left in the stadium and even cleaned up their rooms before leaving. The Japanese government has cultivated this habit in young Japanese students.
Perak will soon host the 19th SUKMA Games from September 14 to 22. This is the best opportunity for Perakeans to showcase our good habits by emulating the Japanese to clean up the venue after every event held.
Thousands of people will be in Perak during the games and what better way to show that we are not just a superb host but a responsible one too. Perak is noted for its good food. Besides winning medals we must also show people what a clean state Perak is.
So let’s form our volunteer brigades and NGOs, empower them and make our state proud and great again.
Dr Richard Ng