Recycling 101: Why We Are Not Segregating Our Waste in Malaysia?

waste segregation environment garbage recycling

In 2015 the Government made it mandatory for residents to separate their waste at the source and I was happy that finally something concrete being done on the manner our garbage is being processed.

After all, we have not gone big by going with recycling on a wider scale coupled with a greater push towards protecting the environment. Image source: Ministry of Housing & Local Government.

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My only displeasure with this decision back then was that it was not rolled out to the state of Selangor.

This implementation is pursuant to regulations under Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act 2007 (Act 672) enforced in the following states and Federal Territories: Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Johor, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Kedah and Perlis.

2+1 collection system will be implemented beginning 1 SEPTEMBER 2015 whereby the collection for residual waste will be done twice a week while the collection for recyclable waste and bulky waste will be done once a week.

(Source)

Waste Segregation vs Waste Sorting

Actually, I thought it is the same thing until I read this:-

“Waste segregation” means dividing waste into dry and wet. Dry waste includes wood and related products, metals and glass. Wet waste typically refers to organic waste usually generated by eating establishments and are heavy in weight due to dampness.

Waste segregation is different from waste sorting.

Waste segregation is the grouping of waste into different categories. Each waste goes into its category at the point of dumping or collection, but sorting happens after dumping or collection.

Segregation of waste ensures pure, quality material. Sorting on the other hand will end up producing impure materials with less quality.

(Source)

waste segregation environment recycling garbage

Not all waste is the same and requires the same waste processing method. Image source: Ministry of Housing & Local Government.

Why Waste Recycling Is Critical?

Obviously, it is critical that we improve on the garbage segregation and thereafter the level of recycling – we are running out of lands for the landfill. The existing landfills may also be polluting the groundwaters and causing a major health hazard as well.

Malaysia is on track to miss its 2020 targets to divert 40% of waste from landfill and increase recycling rates to 22%. According to the most recent stats available, almost 90% of waste was reportedly disposed to sanitary landfills, while only 10.5% was recycled1.

According to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in Malaysia, around RM430m (US$100m) has been spent on closing just 17 out of 165 existing dumpsites, and promoting the disposal of solid waste to sanitary landfill.

Malaysia is reportedly generating an immense amount of MSW, around 33,000 t/d, which is equivalent to 1.17 kg/person per day3. Added to that there is import of foreign waste – a considerable amount of which is plastic waste.

This is imported either legally (estimated around 873 kt in 20184) or illegally (based on private conversations with authorities this is estimated to be around 500 kt in 2018).

(Source)

And this is not only impacting Malaysia but also other countries:-

India generates 62 million tonnes (MT) of waste every year, and only 43 MT is collected. Of the collected waste, close to 31 MT is dumped on landfill sites or water bodies and only11.9 MT is scientifically treated.

Consequently, our landfills are brimming with so much urban waste that according to a joint report by Assocham and accounting firm PwC, India is reportedly going to need a landfill that’s the size of New Delhi by 2050.

The first and most crucial step to change this alarming forecast is to segregate waste so that it can be treated scientifically at the source.

(Source)

waste segregation environment recycling garbage collection

We have the collection schedule and types of garbage to be segregated but the problem is in the implementation starting with the garbage man. Image source: Ministry of Housing & Local Government.

Short-comings in Waste Segregation

Waste segregation is not something new and we have done it back home too but it was not effective for one reason. The garbage collectors noticed the different garbage bags but then band them together and throw them into the garbage truck.

This is despite us telling the garbage man about the differences in the bags that we have. In the end, we decided that it was not worth the effort and ended up putting all garbage in the same bag. Then I thought with the Government making garbage segregation mandatory state-wide, the garbage man will now be forced to do the same at the collection point.

But it seems like nothing have changed.

But many don’t seem to care. And neither, it appears, do the authorities.

Yasmin Rasyid, from environmental group EcoKnights, says one of the problems lies with the garbage collectors.

“Among the feedback we received was that garbage collectors aren’t doing their part. When they collect garbage, they mix everything up.

“So those who separate their waste see this as a wasted effort on their part.”

She said there was also a “big gap” in terms of education, age and awareness.

Citing her own neighbourhood, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, as an example, Yasmin said many were receptive to the idea of separating their garbage.

(Source)

Moving forward, although the strict enforcement of segregation was not done in Selangor, there was some improvement in the manner of the garbage collection. Now there are 2 types of the collection made – one is the normal household garbage and another is the bulk/garden/tree trims collection and they often do on alternate days.

Final Say

In a country where we have rampant illegal forest logging that had caused flash floods and the disappearance of the precious water catchment area, we seriously need a stronger effort to improve the impact of our lifestyles on the environment.

One area that we often overlooked and have not given due consideration is on managing the waste.

Based on this report by Khanazah Research Institute, the recycling rate in Malaysia have improved from 13.2% in 2013 to 28% in 2018 and this trend is expected to improve in the coming years. Of course, compared to other countries namely Germany which has a recycling rate of 68% and our nearest neighbour, Singapore at 61%, we still have a long way to go.

We need to go back to enforcing waste segregation and ensure the other logistics are in place namely educating the garbage men on what it means waste segregation before we do the same at the household level.

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