Questions Public Clean-up Bill must answer

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The Solid Waste Management and Public Clean-Up Bill is much awaited by all. The bill is being developed to give more powers to the federal government to manage solid waste in an integrated, coordinated and effective manner as mentioned by the deputy prime minister recently.

However, the Minister of Housing and Local Government was quoted as saying 'But how to do it here? We will have to think of the system later'.

The above statement raises this question - how could we develop a bill without even knowing how we are going implement it? It is the case of creating a solution without knowing the problem. Why was the bill not put up for public comments just like the Water Service Industry Act 2005 bill?

The DPM also mentioned that the current concessionaires for solid waste management are incapable of getting financial support from banks due to the interim agreement they have signed. So, are we under the impression that the bill is to help the concessionaires have a better profit margin? What were the concessionaires thinking when they took on a business which would bring them losses? No one does business when they are on the losing side. It is up to the companies' financial planners to solve this obstacle.

We agree with the 'waste more pay more' policy that the new bill stresses. Then again, the major implication is accessibility to the recycling centres, which are in scarcity. For example, the MCMC (Malaysian Commission for Multimedia and Communication) reported that the number of registered mobile phone users is more than 20 million which means we are looking at 20 million or so mobile phone batteries that will be discarded in three years or so.

Till now there is not even a collection centre for consumers to discard their batteries properly. Mobile phone batteries contain environmentally hazardous substances. There are other materials such as electrical and electronic components, textile materials, objects with mixed proportion of materials, etc.

Another severe problem that may arise would be illegal dumping by those who do not wish to pay or are incapable of paying for the collection fees based on the 'waste more pay more' policy. How is the government or the ministry going to curb this? How does the enforcement team come in place? What are the penalties like?

If concessionaires do not carry out their duties properly, how are they going to be penalised? Will the agreement be revoked and will they have to pay the cost of mismanagement?

The government should also be looking into acknowledging good waste management practices in addition to penalising wrongdoers.

The writer is president of Fomca.

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