Waste not, want not
By Jude Toyat
In Malaysia, a total of 23, 000 tonnes of waste is being generated every single day.
This volume of waste increases along with the growth of human population, rapid development and a surge in economic activities in the country.
With the amount of waste growing by the day, it has become a major contributor to the pollution of ground and surface water as well as causing detrimental risks on public health and environment which will affect the future of younger generations, said Trienekens Sarawak Sdn Bhd business development executive (scheduled waste) Timothy Marimuthu.
“There are lots of cases where waste is not being taken care of properly and people are living on top of waste. We have rivers and marine lives that already tainted and we cannot take the seafood in lots of places. This matter should be avoided.
“It is necessary to educate the youth and generally members of the public about waste management because every day we are generating waste, the question is, are you taking care of it or not? Waste needs to go somewhere so it needs to be in their the proper places,” he said when met during ‘The Empowerment Series: Waste and Our Generation’ held at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) recently.
Organised by The Champions and Yayasan Perpaduan Sarawak (YPS) in collaboration with the Sarawak Development Institute (SDI), Trienekens, the Natural Resource and Environment Board (NREB) Sarawak and AIESEC Kuching, the Empowerment Series are a series of informal talks looking to empower the younger generation with knowledge and awareness about relevant social problems and issues faced by the community today.
The ‘Waste and Our Generation’ session focuses on educating youth on local waste management efforts and raising their awareness about steps and measures that should be taken to care for Mother Earth.
When asked about updates on strategies for waste management, Timothy said that nowadays people are turning to converting waste into energy, as well as recycling.
“The technologies we have in the country including Sarawak are actually from Germany. Trienekens holds the responsibility to engineer landfills in a way that it is done to protect the environment, not just digging holes and throwing everything inside but providing proper layers of protection at the bottom and proper layers of collection of pipes for the leachates to be able to be channelled to proper treatment process.”
He said that the landfill in Sarawak is Level 4, the highest level for any landfill as it has a water treatment system equipped with leachate treatment centre.
In Kuching, the landfill is located at the Kuching-Serian road along Jalan Mambong.
“It was given to us by the state government, to be managed and to do proper disposal facility near 16th Mile. There is only one landfill in Kuching.
“There are lots of dumpsites in the state including those in Samarahan, Bau, as well as Serian where they also have a landfill there,” he said.
Timothy explained that types of waste include normal everyday or household waste, while hazardous waste consists of clinical waste from hospitals and industrial waste.
Identify your garbage
When asked about what is still missing here concerning waste management, Timothy said that knowledge of the impact of the rubbish they dispose was lacking.
“People think that throwing rubbish on the road and outside is enough. They do not see where it goes to in the end. This is different if they threw it into the rubbish bin since you know it will end up in a proper landfill.
“People do not realise that when they throw rubbish on to the road it goes out to the river, from river to sea, and at the end of the day whatever water that comes back to you is made up of all these components and chemicals that make up plastics.
“If they realised the whole impact of it, how it becomes an ecosystem and comes back to us then they would really know the impact of waste on us,” he said.
Timothy also pointed out several places in Kuching that have improper waste management like Sungai Tabuan.
“People actually live along the river and with the vast amount of waste available there, it clogs up their drainage system which will then cause flood, affecting marine life preventing us from consuming any produce from our rivers. The livelihoods of the people are also affected,” he said.
On people’s behaviour today, Timothy said that the buying habit contributes majorly on improper waste management.
“As a developing nation, we produce more things every day, and more people get the opportunity to buy things that are also become cheaper. People today like to buy things if the old ones are spoiled without realising that buying more generates more waste.
“With that, what we worry is that the landfill, which is supposed to last approximately 25 years will not last that long due to the increasing amount of waste following the nation’s development as it shortens the length of time we can use the landfill.
“This is worrying as we might need more landfills and we don’t want to see our world just full of landfills,” he added.
Generally, Timothy said that one person generates about 800g to 1kg of waste everyday in Kuching, estimating that with the city’s current population of 600, 000 people here, more than 500 tonnes of waste a day could easily be generated.
“My advice to the younger generation in reducing waste is to start segregating your waste at home every day. Things like detergent bottles, cans, papers, start segregating it. That can be a good starter for the younger generation to help reduce waste, in hope to become like some foreign countries that has been practicing this method for years such as Japan which is very clean and beautiful,” he added.