Monday, September 24, 2018

We're Becoming a Country of Thrash

Malaysia is home to all types of thrash.

After all, we produced the No.1 thrash the world has ever known!

Yup, you got it right – Najis, I mean, Najib Razak, the world’s most infamous crook.

But that doesn’t mean that we should be a cesspool for 'shit' from other countries.

We have tolerated Lynas all these years – meaning, we’ve become a scrap heap for radioactive wastes. What’s left behind by Lynas impose serious environmental, social and health cost burdens on the local populace living close to Kawasan Perindustrian Gebeng, which is 21.29 km (13.23 miles) from Kuantan, Pahang.

FYI, Lynas did not even comply with the 2012 directive of the Malaysian Cabinet to expel all their wastes, including products made from the wastes, out of Malaysia.

And I read that after all these years, the Australian company (and the Atomic Energy Licensing Board) have yet to provide a detailed plan for the Permanent Waste Disposal Facility including the intended location.

Everybody just conveniently forgets about it.

Of late, Malaysia is in the news again. We have become a popular destination for plastic junk previously destined for China, which banned their imports since January 2018.

In July, British public spending watchdog National Audit Office's latest report showed that about 250,000 tonnes of plastic – used as product packaging – were exported by the UK as waste to other countries in 2018's first quarter. Malaysia accepted 17 percent of this.

Indeed, Malaysia is emerging as the preferred dumpsite not only for the UK, but also Australia and New Zealand.

According to New Zealand’s RadioNZ, the tonnes of plastic that the country used to send to China for recycling is now being re-routed to Malaysia.

The plastic that can't be recycled, either because it's too contaminated or it's just not economical to do so, is either dumped or burned. Needless to say, that will have a devastating effect on the environment, and the health of those living in the vicinity.

Koo Ze Quan and Tan Siew Hoon stand on a mountain of plastic waste at an illegal factory in Jenjarom, Selangor in Malaysia. Photo: RNZ/Nita Blake-Persen

Last year, New Zealand sent 6300 tonnes of plastic to Malaysia. So far this year, nearly 6000 tonnes have already been exported there (RadioNZ, New Zealand, September 23, 2018).

Plastic pollution in Malaysia:

RadioNZ did an investigative piece and discovered an insidious network of nearly 40 factories purporting to be plastic recyclers now operating in the district of Kuala Langat in Selangor, where Jenjarom is located. 

Most are hidden in palm oil plantations, which the factory owners rent because they are cheap and accessible to waterways. That way they can easily discard the contaminated water they use to clean the filthy plastics before they process them. 

Lawmakers and industry players previously told Malay Mail of their belief that corruption and lax regulations were allowing many of these China-owned facilities to use Malaysia as a substitute haven to the plastic waste that their country has since disallowed.

Local authorities inspect the premises of a plastic recycling plant in Kuala Langat, Selangor on July 24, 2018. Pic by Ahmad Zamzahuri

Local authorities in July supposedly visited 38 factories in the Kuala Langat area – and found only three had recycling permits. Fourteen were shuttered but since then, it is said four have started operating again. Something fishy is going on here. It just doesn't seem right. 

Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah (left) wants plastic imports banned all together. 

But change won’t happen overnight, she readily admits. 

"We may have changed our government but we are working within an old system. And these civil servants are from the past government and they follow the kind of attitude that is left behind. I'm not surprised there may be allegations of corruption, and it is still continuing”. 

That is a lame excuse. Maria Chin should know that the Selangor state government have been under Pakatan Harapan's rule since 2008! 

And Malaysians should know too that we have been named the eighth worst country in the world for plastic pollution! 

We’re becoming a country of thrash! 

I’m trusting Yeo Bee Yin (left) who’s in charge of the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change will urgently work with Selangor and take immediate action. 

I think this issue commands a bigger priority than the issue to ban the use of plastic straws.

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