We tend to think that our actions have little impact on the environment. But I beg to differ.
Malaysia produces about 30,000 tonnes of waste every day and only 5% are recycled. Institutions in Malaysia sometimes run programs or seminars to educate students about the impact recycling and provide tips on how to get started. My family reuses plastic bags, glass jars and plastic containers. We also recycle our newspapers and magazines. Some of us try to do our part but it is not enough. Growing up in Malaysia, I realized that:
- A lot of Malaysians still don’t know about the benefits of recycling (especially the older generation).
- Surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of recycling bins around the city to make it easier for communities to recycle.
- Finally, I have a feeling that most people think that engaging in recycling activities won’t make a difference on the environment. Cameron Brick, a PhD candidate in Social Psychology from the University of California, points out that people look at the big problem and often decide that there’s nothing they could do that would create enough change to be worth the effort.
Well-run recycling programs cost less to operate than waste collection, land-filling, and incineration. National Recycling Coalition
In my opinion, an action, no matter how big or small, can create an impact. Every day, people around the world buy, consume and produce waste. If we all take responsibility towards our environment (or at least try to), do you think that will have an impact? Yes!
Now, I’m not saying that the Malaysian government isn’t making an effort. In fact, I found out that the waste segregation law was recently implemented in K.L., Putrajaya and several other states with the goal to increase the recycling rate to 22% by 2020. Residents living in these states are required to separate waste into categories or they will be fined RM 50 for the first offence, RM 100 for the second and RM 500 for the third. For subsequent offences, court action will be taken. These punishments are certainly harsh but Malaysia still has a long way to go as most foreign countries have recycling rates between 50-60%.
Considering that the average person recycles (or composts) 1.5 pounds of municipal solid waste (MSW) every day, it can add up. Every ton of recycled MSW saves 2.27 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. How Stuff Works
One thing I really like about living in Melbourne is that recycling bins are easily and readily accessible. Unlike in Malaysia, most residents here have their own recycle bin. The Victorian government makes an effort to encourage recycling through a rewards program called GreenMoney. Although it was initially trialed in Southbank and Docklands, it has since been implemented to all City of Melbourne residents after its huge success. GreenMoney allows communities to gain points through recycling, which can then be used to redeem vouchers or get discounts on food, beauty products and more. When more people join the program (those living in the same building), more points will be gathered collectively. This encourages us to actively influence others to practice the habit of recycling.
Besides that, GreenMoney sends out monthly newsletters (through e-mails of course) to alert its members of challenges and programs that keep the community engaged. Last month, Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) hosted a free screening for the documentary called Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story. Of course I had to check it out. I love documentaries!
Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story documents filmmakers Jen Rustemeyer’s and Grant Baldwin’s journey on uncovering just how much food is wasted across the supply chain (and why). According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about 133 billion pounds of food is wasted each year in the United States alone. The staggering amount inspired Jen and Grant to take on the challenge to survive on discarded food for six months.
“Those date labels -especially the “best before” date – it’s really all about peak freshness, it has absolutely nothing to do with safety.” Rustemeyer
How do you think they will fare? I highly recommend that you watch the documentary to discover for yourself.
Happy Monday and stay tuned for Watch What You Throw P. 2!