22/04/2020 09:27 PM

By Nurul Hanis Izmir

KUALA LUMPUR, April 22 -- The onslaught of COVID-19 and imposition of the MCO has resulted in a double-whammy of disrupting the country’s recycling industry and environmental protection efforts.

The MCO has caused tonnes of waste that is normally taken to recycling centres to be left at normal rubbish collection points.

While local households and scavengers, who have been collecting material for recycling, are now forced to dump recycle material at normal rubbish collection points, there is no assurance that the waste will not eventually be exported.

By far and large, it does seems that years of efforts at inculcating the recycling habit has now been diminished by the pandemic.

Perhaps, 2020 is not a good year to celebrate the Earth Day 50th anniversary which falls today.

A check by Bernama in Petaling Jaya saw a rubbish collection point piled up with scrap metal, paper and plastic/food packaging.

For example, most packaging made of non-biodegradable plastic bag and containers used for takeout food, as well as that of online food delivery services is dumped in rubbish bins.

“I suppose this is a familiar scene all over the country. Thousands of scavengers, including foreigners, who make a living collecting recycling waste to meet their daily needs, have been left high and dry, as they cannot sell the recyclables to the recycling vendors,” a resident who wants to remain anonymous told Bernama.

He said with the gloomy global economic forecast, demand for waste to be recycled will surely take a significant hit.

The waste will place a huge burden on local authorities to clear post COVID-19 and the MCO and it could lead to a perilous impact on the environment. The thought of waste being dumped on wayside or into rivers is just frightening.

Malaysia has over the years stepped up efforts in cleaning up the environment. These include enhancing the grassroots recycling, while stopping the import of waste material that other countries do not want.

But no thanks to COVID-19, the environmental protection efforts are now seemingly dead in the water.

The plastic recycling industry worldwide, for example, is worth US$600 billion (RM2.52 trillion), for which Malaysia is aiming to capitalise on the potential.

A white paper published by the the Malaysian Plastics Manufacturers Association (MPMA) and Malaysian Plastics Recyclers Association (MPRA) last year, noted that the plastics recycling industry has contributed RM4.5 billion to the economy, reflecting an opportunity for growth by converting waste to wealth.

“Plastics recyclers could potentially grow their contribution to the country’s economy by three to four times, to an estimated RM15 billion to RM20 billion annually, and this could be achieved with increased investments in better technology, infrastructure and upgraded capacity,” the associations said.

MPMA vice-president CC Cheah, however, could not be reached for comment at press time.

As the nation battles COVID-19 and is being placed under the MCO, the “no plastic” campaign has been put on hold and the use of useable drinking cups and shopping bags could further spread the virus is a cause for concern.






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