What a waste!

A RECENT front-page report about the massive amount of food waste in Penang once again highlights the seriousness of Malaysia's problem of solid waste disposal which affects the quality of our environment.

In Penang alone, dubbed the country's food haven, some 700,000kg of food is thrown away daily and amazingly, the amount is equivalent to the weight of four Boeing 747s!

Those who have flown in a Boeing 747 or jumbo jet can imagine how huge and heavy it is to the extent that it's mind-boggling how it could fly at all. But for food weighing four such aircraft to be wasted daily in just one of the 13 states in the country is something unimaginable.

This sheer amount of waste makes up 40% of the average 1,750 tonnes of solid waste sent every day to the landfill in Pulau Burung.

This is just Penang. What of Selangor and Kuala Lumpur with a bigger population than Penang and which have far more food outlets, especially the 24-hour restaurants?

Nationwide, food waste is the largest contributor of solid waste, averaging up to 3,000 tonnes daily.

The biggest question is just how long can all the landfills in the country sustain all this food that Malaysians are wasting with impunity?

I know it's the biggest headache for all the local authorities to grapple with, not to mention the huge budget allocated for solid waste disposal.

If the people of Taiwan, which I visited recently, had read the news report of our food waste, some might even get a "heart attack".

I could not find a garbage bin in the streets or shopping mall or at the international airport.

And yet Taipei is one of the cleanest cities that I have been to.

Taiwanese friends say it's in their DNA not to throw rubbish around and by same token, hardly any rubbish is created in the first place.

Malaysians can never ever be like them but at the very least something drastic ought to be done to curb this gross unsustainable culture of waste.

Unsustainable in every sense of the word and in every aspect of life.

All those "Don't litter" signs and campaigns over the years not only have proven futile but the waste and garbage problem has gone from bad to worse with the increase in population.

Even with the world's biggest number of garbage bins provided at every nook and corner, including huge ones in certain areas, it is difficult to find drains free of rubbish.

If you come across a drain where the water flows freely, please email me. I will write a story about it.

And rubbish thrown in rivers and lakes is yet another Malaysian phenomenon which at times even causes water treatment plants to be shut down leading to water supply disruptions.

To begin with, do we really need so many eating outlets, identified as the major cause of food waste?

Local authorities need to review their liberal policy of approving licences for such outlets.

Yes, we need to perk up our economy by creating jobs and so on but virtually all jobs at such places like the 24-hour restaurants are not taken by Malaysians but foreigners. If anything, it only worsens our over-populated foreign worker presence in the country.

And what about the problem of pest control with food waste being an attraction for pests like rats?

The next time you eat your favourite nasi kandar, take a peek at the restaurant's garbage bin, if you don't see a rat, please let me know.

There have also been regular reports of people being hospitalised or dying after eating food contaminated with rat's urine.

It's not food alone that is going to waste.

Our use of electricity, too, needs to be revisited including by the city and municipal authorities.

Our utility giant, Tenaga Nasional Berhad, which the prime minister rightly described as one of the world's best managed companies, is bending over backwards to provide world class service to homes and industries.

But there is a tendency to waste this resource as well as evident from lamp posts that are too close to each other. In other words, many streets in the cities are unnecessarily over-lit even by Western standards.

We do not have to make the night look like day because it consumes too much power and I can imagine the electricity bills of entities like Kuala Lumpur City Hall or the operators of PLUS Highways.

You can also take a look at the road tunnels in some parts of the Klang Valley, they are brightly lit round-the-clock.

Not many people know that our electricity charges are kept affordable or low because of the discount generously offered by Petronas to power plants. By right, it's a bone of contention that gas ought to be supplied at market rates.

Also a lot of electricity is wasted because of faulty timers for street lighting.

What this means is that it results in roads being lit up even during the day.

I passed a certain flyover in Kuala Lumpur on three consecutive days last year and the area was lit up even at 1pm.

So on the third day I alerted the Kuala Lumpur City Hall and it was only then that the lights were switched off.

Last but not least in my list of public wastage is of course water which I wrote about in this column two weeks ago.

By and large, water is being wasted like there's no tomorrow.

This has to stop and the sooner the better.

Comments: letters@thesundaily.com