Making a difference with concerted efforts
Article by Trienekens (Sarawak) Sdn. Bhd., partner of Youth Green X-Change Programme 2014
DEVELOPING A SOUND, MODERN and reliable waste management system is a key component of creating a sustainable, healthy city and community. Waste and environmental issues should be managed with strong knowledge, technological know-how and best industrial practices to ensure that precious natural resources remain intact and unpolluted.
Sarawak, particularly, Kuching City implements the Integrated Solid Wastes Management System (ISWMS). It is a modern approach that allows the management of municipal waste and hazardous waste in a holistic and integrated manner. It emphasizes on fast, efficient, safe and clean collection of waste using standardised waste receptacles and modern truck fleets, complemented by modern and environmentally engineered disposal methods at the Kuching Integrated Waste Management Park (KIWMP) in Mambong, – eliminating all possible contamination or pollution caused by weak waste management processes.
In Malaysia, one of the major causes of environmental pollutions is improper disposal of solid waste. This caused a big concern for the Federal Government which led to the formation and pending implementation of the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act 2007 (ACT 672). This act covers mainly the Peninsular Malaysia, Federal Territories of Labuan and Putrajaya. Sarawak and Sabah, however, is excluded from the act as presently, the two states already have in existence its own set of laws concerning waste management, namely the Local Authorities Ordinance 1996; the Local Authorities (Cleanliness) By Laws, 1999 and the Environmental Conservation Order (Prescribed Activities) 1999.
Malaysians generated about 17,000 tonnes of solid waste daily in 2001, 19,000 tonnes in 2005 and this is estimated to increase to 30,000 tonnes by 2020, indicating an unsustainable pattern. While we have already in place the necessary policies, rules and legislations, enforcements and modern facilities as well as infrastructure to manage our solid waste, we still need to improve on how we manage our waste properly and wisely.
It is encouraging to note that the level of environmental awareness has picked up in recent years through green initiatives of sustainable practices such as ‘No Plastic Day’, ‘Say No to Polystyrene’ and buy-back campaigns by the local authorities, private businesses or individuals. Although the national recycling rate currently stands at three to five percent, with consistent education and awareness programmes, this figure can positively increase for the better.
In other aspects, however, issues such as indiscriminate dumping and littering, still prevails in many places such as commercial, industrial and residential areas as well as riverside areas; acts that inevitably create health risks and affects water quality. It is not uncommon to see sporadic mounts of rubbish dumped illegally or indiscriminately along roads both in the city and in rural areas. Such waste is dumped out of convenience – to avoid disposal fees or to save time and effort required for proper disposal at landfill or recycling facilities.
A concerted effort by all stakeholders is needed to address this problem. An effective environmental education and control programme can be best summarised in the following tactical strategies (EPA Toolkit 1998):
• Clean up efforts
Cleanup projects or “gotong-royong” require coordinated planning efforts to ensure that adequate resources and funding are available. Once a site has been cleaned, signs, lighting or barriers may be required to discourage future dumping. Signs should indicate the fines and penalties for illegal dumping, and a phone number for reporting incidents.
• Environmental education, community outreach and involvement
Communities are provided with the basic information and knowledge about improper disposal including resources such as sufficient bin centres or disposal systems that best suits their geographical condition. They are encouraged to monitor the waste situation in their areas and report any illegal dumping happening in their area. Trienekens has been actively involved in educating the public on the impacts of improper disposal and working very closely with all the relevant agencies to reach out to school children, youths and community members as part of its on-going waste and environment education programme.
• Enhance enforcement
Other than educating the public, another effective tool would be using existing laws and legislations to regulate waste management and reduce illegal dumping. For example, imposing fines, cost recovery penalties for cleanup, and special permits for waste management activities can help to reduce the offence or even fund the prevention programme, perhaps developing an incentive scheme for citizens who report illegal dumping activities.
• Tracking and monitoring
Tracking and monitoring the results of prevention efforts will help determine its success level. With such a system, local authorities can identify problematic areas faced with constant illegal dumping, dumping patterns and frequency. This will lead them to better enforcements, outreach and education for offenders.
Change in mindset and behaviour will happen gradually with consistent efforts and strong commitment from every level of the society and stakeholders, including youths. The upkeep, maintenance, cleanliness, conservation and protection of our environment are the responsibilities of everyone.
Trienekens, as the operator of the ISWMS and responsible partner of the community where it works for, will continue to strive and contribute towards realising and achieving the vision of clean and healthy city and looks forward to the opportunity of working together with all its partners to ensure that this vision is achieved.
The Youth Green X-Change (YGXC) outreach programme was launched in April 2014. A Youth Seminar followed by an environmental-based photography, short film, essay and feature writing competition has been completed. A final event for the year, the YGXC Camp will be held in Kuching from Dec 10 to 12, 2014.