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‘Ban on plastic straws won’t help much’

More sustainable efforts needed to protect environment, says expert

26 Oct 2020 / 15:22 H.

PETALING JAYA: While there is now a ban on the use of plastic straws, the effort has somewhat been negated by the rapid increase in the use of disposable plastic containers.

This, environmentalists said, could have a negative impact on campaigns for greater sustainability and environment-friendly practices.

Imposing a ban on the use of plastic straws was a good move but the bigger threat to the environment is single-use plastic packaging.

The use of such packaging, environmentalists noted, has multiplied as people depend on food delivery and takeaways during the lockdown to curtail the spread of Covid-19.

Malaysian Nature Society president Prof Dr Ahmad Ismail told theSun that although banning plastic straws is a good move, there is “not much real change”.

A study shows that about 30 million single-use straws are disposed every day in Malaysia. It takes about 200 years for the plastic to disintegrate.

However, according to a 2018 article on phys.org, a web-based science, research and technology news service, straws make up only 4% by weight, and even less by volume, of all plastic waste that reach the sea.

Single-use plastic containers present a bigger threat to the environment. Such waste eventually end up in landfills or the ocean.

The World Economic Forum has warned that unfettered use of disposable plastics will lead to more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

Ahmad, a professor of eco-toxicology at Universiti Putra Malaysia, said greater awareness would be more helpful in efforts to reduce single-use plastics, straws and containers.

He said the government could also do more to educate people on how to reduce environmental pollution by not using plastics.

“We, as citizens should be more involved in this process by separating our own waste to manage plastic management better,” Ahmad said.

“Every individual should be encouraged and empowered to champion sustainable living. The 5Rs is the first step, (refuse, reduce, reuse, re-purpose and recycle),” he added.

Ahmad said other simple practices that can be adopted at home include separating organic (compost) from inorganic/solid (recyclable) waste, to reduce the need to dump more waste into landfills.

“People should also bring their own reusable bags when shopping.”

While the ban on the use of plastic straws has had little impact, EcoKnights programme director Fadly Bahktiar said it is, nonetheless, a step in the right direction in the Zero Single Use Plastic Malaysia Roadmap 2030.

EcoKnights is a non-governmental organisation focused on the empowerment of sustainable actions for a better planet.

He said there is a need to strike a balance between education and enforcement for a more impact-driven outcome in the campaign to reduce the use of plastics.

Fadly said individuals should also volunteer in environment related movements and actions.

“This will make us more aware of the sustainability trends,” he added.

The whole idea is to slow down the impact of climate change. A ban on plastic straw is just the first step.

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