Malaysia a major plastic waste offender, report shows

K. Kabilan

Plastic waste is one of the most damaging forms of pollution, killing more than 250 sea creatures each day. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, April 22, 2024.

MALAYSIA is one of the worst offenders in plastic waste mismanagement, with each person in the country guilty of mismanaging 25.49kg per year, research conducted by Utility Bidder showed.

This places Malaysia at 10th spot in the Plastic Polluters report, which profiles countries with the most mismanaged waste.

Mismanaged plastic waste is defined as waste that is littered or disposed of in uncontrolled landfills, significantly increasing the risk of it entering the ocean. The worst offender in this category is Comoros with 69.52kg of mismanaged plastic waste per capita each year, followed by Trinidad and Tobago (52.43kg) and Suriname (39.47kg).

In the category of thowing plastic waste into the ocean, Malaysia ranked 5th, with each person dumping 2.29kg of plastic waste each year. The Philippines tops this category with 3.30kg per capita of plastic waste entering the ocean annually, contributing 36% of the world’s total plastic waste in the ocean.

Plastic waste is one of the most damaging forms of pollution.

Governments around the world have introduced several measures to tackle this, such as plastic bag charges when shopping and discounts for bringing reusable coffee cups into cafes.

Malaysia has banned plastic bags and single-use straws to address plastic waste and pollution.

Earlier this month, Greenpeace public engagement campaigner Hema Sulakshana Mahadevan said the recycling system to overcome plastic waste has failed.

“We are producing too much,” Hema told Malaysiakini, adding that “plastic production is growing out of control”.

“We, along with other countries, are failing to manage our waste. We don’t have enough facilities and resources to manage this waste.”

She added that not all plastic waste that ends up in the trash bin could be recycled.

“Consumers are not aware because there is not enough education on this. The issue of plastic pollution is still going on. It persists because there is a fundamental misalignment in addressing the problem.

“No matter how much we are told to reuse and reduce, we will never be able to avoid generating waste or contributing to pollution because we are continuously churning out plastics,” she added.

She said Malaysia is one of the biggest plastic manufacturers in the world but it does not have the capacity to deal with the waste.

“The landfills are filled to the brim, and it’s been going on for decades. We do not have an effective waste management programme to deal with this issue,” she added.

Greenpeace has urged Malaysia to ink the global plastic treaty to end plastic pollution by the end of 2040.

Also earlier this month, the Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) in a report said Malaysia has emerged as a global hub for plastic waste exports, with Japan being the top exporter of such rubbish.

C4 said Japan exported 21.7 million kg of plastic waste per month to Malaysia in 2023.

Since China banned solid waste imports in 2018, Malaysia has become an international hub for such waste, its report said.

C4 said the report noted several major challenges for Malaysian waste management, which include illicit practices such as open burning and illegal dumping.

It highlighted the lack of enforcement and monitoring from authorities, as well as the lack of transparency and public access to investigate regulatory compliance in importing plastic waste.

It urged Malaysia to adopt the Basel Convention Plastic Waste Amendments with strict penalties for violations.

World Earth Day

Earlier today, the Fisheries Department said integrated approaches involving the government, business community, and public are needed to address the issue of plastic pollution.

The department said it is crucial for all parties to reduce pollution and plastic usage, enhance waste management efficiency, and promote the adoption of alternative materials to effectively address this issue.

Since 2019, the department has been conducting studies on microplastic and macroplastic pollution in Peninsular Malaysia’s aquatic environment, particularly on the northwest and east coasts, and in commercial fish tissue and shellfish.

“The findings reveal that the types of plastics commonly found in both local and global aquatic environments are rayon, polyethylene, and polypropylene.

“These types of plastic are commonly used in daily life, particularly within the clothing industry, food packaging, and various other industries,” read the statement, released in conjunction with World Earth Day today.

Experts suggest reusing cups and shopping bags and reducing the use of chewing gum.

The Plastic Polluters report recommended buying reusable water bottles or coffee mugs as one of the easiest ways to reduce plastic waste.

It said 1,500 plastic bottles are thrown away every second, and just one in 400 coffee cups are recycled.

The report stated that more than 250 marine animals are killed every day by plastic bags.

Chewing gum contributes 100,000 tonnes of plastic pollution annually, with an estimated 80-90% of chewing gum is not properly disposed of, making it the one of the most littered items on streets.

Due to its plastic contents, chewing gum is non-biodegradable. This means it won’t naturally break down into organic matter. Littered gum is left to photo-degrade into microplastics. There is also a high probability of it being rain-washed into the oceans, accumulating additional toxins on the way.

The Plastic Polluters report stated that bulk buying could help reduce plastic waste.

Earth Day is an annual event on April 22 to raise support for environmental protection. It was first held in 1970. – April 20, 2024.

Sign up or sign in here to comment.