LETTER | Malaysia needs a circular economy approach to waste management where waste can be a resource and materials can have an extended lifecycle by being properly recycled.
Rampant illegal dumping gone unchecked for years, such as on the land in Sungai Petani that has been seized by the Kedah government recently, shows that our country’s policy framework and infrastructure for materials recycling is incomplete and needs realignment.
To help curb pollution, Malaysia needs a healthy recycling industry that can cope with the rising affluence of its population and the corresponding increase in all recyclables, not just plastics, to be recovered from the solid waste generated.
Recycling is not only vital in protecting the environment and properly managing and disposing of waste, it is crucial to creating new value that benefits society and contributes to sustainability.
Waste plastics such as automotive parts or computer peripherals like keyboards that are generated by production overruns can be recycled to add new value and promote sustainability in various industrial sectors.
A healthy recycling industry needs effective sorting facilities or material recovery facilities where separated recyclables are sorted into waste streams.
It is vital to sort separated recyclables into more specific waste streams to produce higher grade feedstock which is more in demand for recycling into new products.
To illustrate, uncoloured glass and PET bottles are more valuable than coloured, and glass and PET bottles sorted by colour are more valuable than mixed colours.
Clear regulatory and investment framework is crucial to encourage the desired transformation into a high value, advanced, automated, clean and compliant industry.
Currently, opaque regulations and fluid policy directions are hurting investments in the recycling sector as investors are unsure of economic viability.
Recyclable plastics should not be buried in landfills, where they are lost as a resource instead of being used over and over.
A clean and vibrant plastics recycling industry would be a new engine of growth for employment and exports. In addition to supporting Malaysia’s industrial and manufacturing sectors, a sustainable and viable plastics recycling industry contributes to reducing pollution.
We fully support the government's efforts to escalate enforcement against illegal dumping such as that found in Sungai Petani, and against smugglers who make false declarations to Customs in order to illegally import ‘sampah plastik’.
We also support the clampdown on illegal recycling operations, with about 150 of these shut down by the government to date.
We continue to support and are ready to assist the government in efforts to crack down on unscrupulous and illegal operators and to protect the environment.
We also call for a proper forum to discuss a robust, effective regulatory framework for this industry and Malaysia’s role in the circular economy where the redeployment and reuse of resources is a key organising principle.
The MPRA and MPMA are the Malaysian Plastics Recyclers Association and the Malaysian Plastics Manufacturers Association respectively.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.