It pays to separate waste

AS the population of Malaysia grows, it is fair to expect a larger amount of solid waste. More importantly, prosperity and a "tidak apa" attitude have led Malaysians to discard much more waste. The only way to minimise the amount of waste going to landfills or incinerators is to reduce waste and be more serious in promoting recycling.

It is costly to manage solid waste in a proper way. The federal government spends almost RM2 billion a year on solid waste disposal and public cleansing works. At present, only 17.3% of the solid waste is recycled. The government aims for a recycling rate of 22% by 2020.

Many local authorities have implemented the separation of solid waste at source so that recyclables do not end up in landfills. They are Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur, and local authorities in Johor, Malacca, Negri Sembilan, Kedah, Pahang and Perlis.

Residents who do not separate waste will be compounded. Residents in landed properties can be fined RM50 for the first offence, RM100 for the second offence and RM500 for the third offence.

For strata properties, a fine of RM100 is levied for the first offence, RM200 for the second offence and RM500 for the third offence. Those who fail to pay up can be fined RM1,000.

In the 1990s, Petaling Jaya Municipal Council started a pilot garbage separation scheme in the SS3 area. However, the response was not encouraging as only a few households bothered to separate their rubbish as recommended. Hence the scheme stalled.

In Penang, the authorities responsible for keeping the state clean are Penang Island City Council (MBPP) and Seberang Perai Municipal Council (MBSP). They introduced the waste separation on June 1, 2016 and the residents were given a year to get used to the system.

It is time for Penangites to show themselves as good and law-abiding citizens. As of June 1, Penangites must ensure that their recyclable waste is separated into four categories, namely paper, plastic, glass and metal containers.

The council has proposed to levy penalties of RM250 on any household violating the regulation. Persistent offenders will be taken to court and pay higher penalties.

MBPP and MPSP will conduct weekly spot checks, codenamed Ops Kawal Selia Pengasingan Sisa. Landed properties as well as apartments and condominiums and commercial areas will be checked for discarded recyclable and non-recyclable items.

The new city secretary, Yew Tung Seang, has urged members of the public to do their part in reducing waste. According to him, "Each person generates an average of 1.1kg of rubbish daily. We need to reduce this."

There is no excuse for Malaysians not to comply with the separation of solid waste that can be recycled. The Solid Wastes and Public Cleansing Management Act was passed in August 2007. It has taken about 10 years to ensure that Malaysians are ready to separate recyclable materials.

The Act makes the local authorities responsible for managing solid waste. Furthermore, local governments must ensure that recyclable materials are not dumped into incinerators or landfills.

The leaders, more specifically the mayor and president of the two local authorities, should enforce the law fairly. They should not be worried about losing their posts as they are not elected. What is important is to keep the city and municipality clean and liveable.
So far, little is known about the disposal of separated recyclable waste. More needs to be done to ensure that the segregation of waste can be collected properly.

There is no certainty that the segregation of solid waste is going to be successful. For example, what will happen to those who have been collecting recyclable materials from waste bins or from house to house? Although the amount of money they collect in picking recyclable solid waste and selling it to recycling agents is not much, they have somehow managed to stay alive with their meagre income from selling those items.

It is hoped that every resident cooperates to make the implementation a success. After all, separating waste is not a difficult and daunting task compared to adopting a zero-waste lifestyle. If there are violations, there is no option but to impose penalties or "pay-as-you-throw" schemes like in Denmark and Switzerland. It is worth our while to separate waste for the sake of the Earth and future generations.

Datuk Dr Goh Ban Lee is interested in urban planning. Comments: