By Joachim Ng
Will you buy plastic silver? Perak, in addition to being a tourist destination, has joined other states that offer themselves as garbage attractions with plastic wastes from around the globe taking up long-stay residence. There’s money to be made in digesting foreign trash, cutting down forest on Kledang Hill and pouring factory discharge into rivers, but are we reaping economic gain and suffering environmental pain?
Plastic waste is recycled for industrial use, but contaminated and low-grade plastics are non-recyclable and some have been found dumped in Ipoh. But why import foreign plastic trash when Malaysia already has 940,000 metric tonnes of local plastic waste, much of which can be recycled. The reason is that plastic trash is strewn all over towns, cities, and neighbourhoods along with other types of garbage. We aren’t just Malaysia: Truly Asia, we are also Malaysia: Land of Litter. The trash is so inconvenient to pick up, sort, and despatch to the recycling factories.
It should be the job of cleaning service contractors, but there are weaknesses in their SOPs, scope of works, KPI targets, and frequency of supervision. These contractors are the key players in maintaining a healthy environment. If only the power to hire, supervise, and fire them is handed over to elected ratepayers councils in every neighbourhood.
Instead of decisions being made at ground level, initiatives have to drip down a long chain of command from federal to state governments and then to local councils such as the Ipoh City Council. If you see the cleaner in your neighbourhood sweeping leaves into the drain, which then clogs up and breeds mosquitoes, you are powerless to do anything despite the fact you, as a property assessment taxpayer, are his client. You should be the one hiring and firing him via a ratepayers council.
Perak can seize the initiative to be a climate champion if Perakians have the guts to insist that politicians stop talking rubbish and tackle environmental damage. Three months ago, some thousands of teenage students across Europe formed a schoolboy movement to demand that politicians focus on climate change. In response, a British opposition party has made climate protection its top campaign message.
In Malaysia, the top campaign message has lately been “Protection of Race and Religion.” In all three recent peninsular by-elections, this was the theme. From now on, tell all politicians you are only interested in their agenda for Protection of Climate and Community. If they have no ideas for climate preservation and community enhancement, they should lose their deposit.