No country should be a dump

01 May 2019 / 19:50 H.

AFTER China took a firm stand last year and refused to accept any more plastic waste, it seems Malaysia became a destination of choice. Now that containers of plastic waste have been found, Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin’s move to curb the problem is a welcome one.

If nations are allowed to dump waste outside their borders, then we’re advancing a very unsustainable lifestyle. Such an arrangement pushes the issue out of the spotlight.

Moving waste between countries is like sweeping up the dust in your room and dumping it elsewhere in the house. Sure, you may not feel its effects as soon, but it eventually will catch up to you because, hey, you live in this house.

This planet is our home, and the real issue is that all of us are building mountains of waste in the only home we have. Out of sight, out of mind is what countries seem to be practising but as the ostrich with its head in the sand has taught us, it doesn’t change the fact that Earth is dying.

It is scary, but what is even more frightening is the careless ignorance many of us still adopt when it comes to climate change. It sets a terrible example for the generations coming after us, and shows how little we care about their future.

I recently had a conversation with some teenagers who were eating packed food in plastic containers. Advising them to wash the containers instead of throwing them away, I warned them of what the future could hold if we don’t buck up. One responded, “Well, we probably won’t be around when that happens, so that’s on them.”

I felt frustration surge within me for a moment, quickly replaced by pangs of sadness. We have no one to blame but ourselves; that response sums up the attitude so many adults have today. Whether we want to admit it or not, we live in an interconnected world. Our choices will affect the next generation’s reality of life.

It’s therefore a breath of fresh air to see a minister take a sincere interest in the conservation of our planet. Yeo’s passion to address issues surrounding single-use plastics, toxic emissions and plastic waste is a giant step forward, and we can learn from her.

No issue as systemic as this can be solved overnight, but there is a solution. Collective action towards greener policies and lifestyles by corporations, communities and countries gives us a chance. The time window is closing, but we still have hope for our planet’s revival. We can clean our home together.

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