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Environment 101: Dismal News On Waste Recycling

waste segregation environment garbage recycling

The recycling process starts with the segregation process at the starting point. Image source: Ministry of Housing & Local Government

Let’s talk about something else that seems to take a back seat amidst the political circus in Malaysia – the environment and in particular, the level of recycling in Malaysia.

In early 2009, this was reported:-

Malaysia’s housing ministry bemoaned the country’s low recycling rate which is currently a dismal 5 per cent, far lower than its neighbouring South-east Asian neighbours, official news reports said Monday

Neighbouring Singapore recorded a 56% recycling rate last year and the Philippines at 12% while Malaysia’s northern neighbours Thailand boasted almost a 50% cycling rate in 2008

Another source on the net reveals that most of the developed countries have almost 50% or higher rates compared to Malaysian’s 5% (it may have improved by 0.0001% in 2010 but we will never know for sure).

MNI reveals that for every 10 newspaper sold, 6 are recovered through recycling. Although percentage wise, it looks impressive (60%), it still means 128,000 tonnes (2.55 million trees) going to the waste.

To tell you the truth, I am not surprised why this is happening.

Current Premise

Firstly look at the various new housing areas – just how many of them have special disposal areas or bins?

When it comes to local authorities setting up separate waste disposal bins, those housing areas managed by MPSJ faired better (I do not know about others, if they are good, please let me know). I have seen dedicated disposal bins placed in designated areas, usually in strategic places and the response has been good.

But it is not enough because secondly, even if we segregated the rubbish into recyclable ones and non-recyclable ones – when the dump truck comes, it gets all mixed up. So it is back to square one.

The fact of the matter is that there is little effort put into getting more people to recycle and for those who do, to facilitate the whole process. There is a dire need to attack the lack of recycling among Malaysians and it should be in two prongs – one from the end-users (people like you and me) and one from the authorities.

End Users

Obviously, it has to start with educating people so that the process of recycling starts at home – the source of million tonnes of rubbish on yearly basis.

We used to collect old newspapers and sell them to the old man who collects recyclable items. But nowadays, we hardly buy newspapers so one part of recycling items are resolved. Bottles are usually “recycled” for storage.

We used to keep our garbage separate based on the “recyclability” of the items but after seeing our “different” bags gets dumped on the same side of the garbage dump truck, we got discouraged.


It will be a good start on recycling if the local authorities start with the placement of the specialised recycling bins and arrangements can be made with private rubbish collectors to ensure that it is not get collected in the same pile.

The more these dedicated recycling bins are made visible in residential areas; it will encourage more people to recycle more household rubbish slowly and surely.

Mention recycling to some people and expect to get a strange stare back from them. That itself shows that public awareness is not that wide and is well known. We need to make a better effort – both from end-users and the local authorities if we want to move beyond the dismal 5% recycling rate.

Read Also

Why Recycle

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5 thoughts on “Environment 101: Dismal News On Waste Recycling”

  1. people are simply not bothered about the environment.

    even though there are clear signs at certain shops that plastic bags would only be given upon request, the cashiers actually insisted that I took the bags and would give me a weird look when I refused the bags even if what I bought was a few bars of chocolates or maybe a bottle of coke and some buns.

    I’ve also seen customers scolding the cashier (despite a written reminder to reduce the use of plastic bags) for not giving him a bag… all he bought was a packet of sweets.

    i’ve been sending my recycleable garbage for recycling since 5 years ago. 😀

    1. In Selangor, Saturdays are “no plastic bag” day and it has been in force for many months now but people still look lost when the cashier do not give any plastic bags.

  2. i am absolute with your thoughts. i’m a degree architecture student at uitm. when i was in my diploma, my research paper was all about wanting to encourage malaysians in recycling. my research was just the first step. i did a survey on the issues of recycling at home. and it turned out they say they dont have the time and space. now im in my degree and starting my thesis. my proposed topic is to designed housings or boarding school that is really suitable to practice recycling in a fun way. If you have any ideas and thoughts, i am honoured to hear some:)

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