Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Malaysia: Plastic use rises amid movement restrictions




Malaysia: Plastic use rises amid movement restrictions

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
As getting meals becomes more convenient, the volume of single-use plastic packaging waste rises, damaging the environment as most end up in rivers and oceans. AFP

Malaysia: Plastic use rises amid movement restrictions

The abundant use of plastic packaging for delivery services must be looked into, especially with the rise in online delivery services during the movement control order, say environmental activists.

Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia president Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil said online delivery services had grown rapidly, increasing the demand for plastic.

“Getting meals has become more convenient as it is literally at your fingertips. However, it involves a lot of single-use plastic packaging, which of course is damaging to the environment as most end up in rivers and oceans.

“As companies that profit from such activities, they have a responsibility to ensure that their activities are sustainable and do not harm the environment,” she said.

She added that companies could use biodegradable material for their packaging such as sugarcane fibre.

“This has already been done for smaller items such as straws. That being said, some food delivery services have taken the initiative to reduce plastic by offering users the option to refuse plastic cutlery.

“This may be a tiny effort on a larger scale, but it plays a vital role in reducing single-use plastic,” she said.

Shariffa Sabrina urged consumers to be more environmentally-conscious when placing online orders.

“Many online stores now have an option for customers to collect their items themselves.

“Consumers can choose online businesses that use eco-friendly packaging and also push businesses to change from plastic packaging to better alternatives,” she said.

Global Environment Centre river care programme manager Dr K Kalithasan said there were many alternative materials available for packaging.

“There are plant or organic-based packaging or wrapping. However, even this does not tackle the root cause of the waste.

“The ideal solution is for e-commerce companies to adopt sustainable or life cycle assessment [LCA] packaging and educate their customers and vendors on minimising plastic packaging,” he said.

An LCA is a technique to evaluate the environmental impact of a commercial product during all its life-cycle stages.

He said companies should invest in producing their sustainable packaging and can even collect back the packaging when the products are delivered to ensure they are sustainably disposed of.

“Companies should think about the long term impact and benefits. Sustainable materials may cost higher at initial stages, but over time, it has a lower environmental impact and economic cost,” Dr Kalithasan said.

“The policymakers could also provide additional incentives or tax rebates for companies that want to adopt LCA.”

Aroe Ajoeni, a youth environmentalist from Klima Action Malaysia, said the no-plastic movement was an important one to push for. “Plastic is cheap to produce, it’s waterproof and it makes it safer to deliver items. That’s why retailers use it to ship items.

“However, policymakers and civil society should look at this as a climate change issue, starting from the production of a product until its disposal,” she said.

World Cleanup Day 2019 audit showed that 10,370 littered pieces of plastic take-out containers were picked up during a mass clean-up across 90 locations in the country last year.

Last year, Former SWCorp deputy CEO (technical) Dr Mohd Pauze Mohamad Taha said plastic made up about 20 per cent of total waste.

While not all companies have switched entirely to being plastic-free, some have undertaken measures to reduce plastic usage.

Grab Malaysia country head Sean Goh said the company was taking measures towards improving the environmental sustainability of their services and customers responded positively.

“The year 2020 will continue to see us actively working with our restaurant-partners to identify more eco-friendly packaging options. Currently, some 85 per cent of our food orders have opted for the ‘no-cutlery’ toggle on our app.

“For every order which opted for no plastic cutlery, 10 sen [2.3 US cents] will be channelled towards a Green Fund which will support our restaurant partners in becoming eco-friendlier businesses,” he said in a statement to The Star.

He added that GrabFood also partnered with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in which it pledged towards WWF’s vision of having no plastic in nature by 2030.

A representative of a popular hangout for youths in Kuala Lumpur said her restaurant had been providing biodegradable paper straws, as well as packing deliveries in paper containers and bags.

“We are also making strides in sourcing sustainable and local ingredients,” she said.

Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association president Jawahar Ali Taib Khan said the move to eliminate single-use plastic at eateries would take time.

“You cannot do everything in one shot. But at least we are trying to adjust to the environmentally-friendly concept,” he said.

Plastic pollution has been in the spotlight in recent years, especially after Greenpeace Malaysia reported in 2018 that Malaysia “has become the world’s rubbish bin”.

Countries such as the US, Japan and Britain had been exporting plastic waste to Malaysia, while illegal plastic waste recycling factories mushroomed in the country.

WWF had also reported in February that Malaysians are the biggest individual consumers of plastic packaging.

THE STAR (MALAYSIA)/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

MOST VIEWED

  • Without shoes or a helmet, a young cyclist steals the show

    Pech Theara gripped the curved handlebars of his rusty old bike, planted his bare feet on its pedals and stormed as fast as he could towards the finish line. The odds were against him as the 13-year-old faced off against kids with nicer bikes at

  • Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville expressway on schedule

    The construction of the more than $1.9 billion Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway has not been delayed despite the Covid-19 pandemic, with more than 26 per cent of the project completed and expected to finish in about two years, according to Ministry of Public Works and Transport secretary of

  • Over 110 garment factories close

    A government official said on November 22 that at least 110 garment factories had closed in the first nine months of the year and left more than 55,000 workers without jobs – but union leaders worry those numbers could be much higher. Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training undersecretary

  • Singapore group seeks $14M in damages from PPSP over ‘breach of contract’

    Singapore-based Asiatic Group (Holdings) Ltd is seeking a minimum of $14.4 million relief from Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX)-listed Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone Plc (PPSP) for allegedly breaching a power plant joint venture (JV) agreement. Asiatic Group’s wholly-owned Colben System Pte Ltd and 95 per

  • PM vows to protect Hun family

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has vowed to continue his fight against opposition politicians who he said intend to smash the Hun family. Without naming the politicians but apparently referring to former leaders of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Hun Sen said there

  • Cambodia lauded for fight against Covid-19

    Cambodia has drawn global accolades for its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, with a new report finding that the Kingdom has controlled the pandemic better than any other country in Asia. Dr Takeshi Kasai, director of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Western Pacific region,