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Huge piles of plastic waste at an illegal dumping site in Sg Rambai in Jenjarom, a town in the Kuala Langat district of Selangor, on March 16, 2019. The Malaysian government has shuttered 33 illegal factories in Jenjarom, which has left behind thousands of tonnes of waste. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, October 11, 2020.
MALAYSIA’S plastics industry has advanced infrastructure for recycling yet has low recycling rates compared to their regional counterparts, said World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
It also has the highest per capita plastic use in the region but has to import plastic waste to feed its recycling plants.
There are now plans to correct this with the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme, which makes product manufacturers share the responsibility of reducing plastic waste and packaging, while improving plastic waste collection and recycling.
The scheme proposed by WWF-Malaysia will be introduced in the 12th Malaysia Plan.
The EPR scheme will reduce waste at point of production and packaging, as well as improve the plastics recycling rate of merely 20%, said WWF-Malaysia.
WWFMalaysia’s “Study on EPR Scheme Assessment for Packaging Waste in Malaysia” pushes the concept as a policy for businesses to adopt.
Under the scheme, companies pay a fee when introducing products into the market. The rate is based on the type and volume of the packaging materials for the products.
“Collected EPR fees will cover the entire spectrum of waste management, ranging from collection, sorting and recycling, as well as creating awareness of plastic recycling among consumers,” WWF-Malaysia told The Malaysian Insight.
“The EPR models bring the financial responsibility of recycling to the stakeholders.”
The EPR scheme will be managed by a non-profit entity called Packaging Recycling Organisation (PRO) Malaysia, which is in the process of being established by 10 consumer goods companies.
PRO functions as the system operator to manage the EPR fees, to engage companies and to issue contracts to waste management operators and municipalities, said WWF-Malaysia.
One example of how the EPR can work is Nestlé’s move to use only paper straws in its UHT products range.
“We are implementing 100% paper straws across Nestlé’s entire UHT range by end 2020, which will eliminate over 200 million plastic straws per year,” Juan Aranols, Nestlé Malaysia Bhd’s chief executive officer told The Malaysian Insight.
The company’s goal is to achieve 100% recyclable or reusable packaging by 2025.
The Swiss multinational food and drink processing corporation, one of the PRO founding companies in Malaysia, also plans to feature recycling education on its packaging for local consumers.
“This model helps to increase recycling rates, by providing adequate incentives provided to participants in the system, while leveraging scale for efficiencies to reduce the overall cost of recycling,” Aranols said of the EPR scheme.
Malaysia has the highest per capita plastic use in the region yet it has to import plastic waste to feed its recycling plants. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, October 11, 2020.
Upping Malaysia’s recycling game
The various ministries are looking into the feasibility of EPR with key industry stakeholders, said WWF-Malaysia,
“For EPR to be successful, the government must incorporate this as a policy to enable the participation of companies.”
The 12th Malaysia Plan is to be tabled in January and is for the period 2021-2025.
WWF-Malaysia said the country is advanced in terms of recycling infrastructure and had sufficient capacity to process large quantities of recyclable waste materials compared with other Southeast Asian countries
However, the processing facilities are under-utilised and run at 20% to 40% under capacity.
WWF-Malaysia also states in its report that based on a 2019 study, the country has the highest annual per capita plastic use, at 16.78 kg per person, compared to China, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
In terms of plastic waste, plastic is the second largest item in Malaysia’s overall generated waste, but its recycling rate of post-consumption plastic packaging is low.
In contrast, South Korea which has had an EPR system since 2003, has a plastics recycling rate that exceeds 40%.
“Since 2003, South Korea has charged manufacturers and importers for their products that contain hazardous materials and are not easily recyclable.
“The fees earned are then used for research and development for better recycling infrastructures and waste recycling projects,” said WWF-Malaysia.
Taiwan, meanwhile, has a plastics recycling rate of over 50% with a 4-in-1 recycling programme, a system similar to the EPR.
Collection and separation
Malaysia’s problem is collection and separation of recyclable waste materials, WWF-Malaysia noted.
Though programmes have been initiated by local governments, problems remain such as improper separation of general and organic waste from recyclables.
“This results in contamination of the recyclable materials.”
This prompts most recyclers in Malaysia to opt for imported waste to run their operations at full capacity.
“By having an EPR scheme in place, collection coverage can be expanded (domestically) to improve sorting capacity.
“There will be more good quality recyclable materials to be used by consumer goods companies instead of non-recyclable materials, and this could boost the recycling industry,” WWF-Malaysia said.
The world’s plastic pollution is now widely acknowledged as an alarming issue, with about 4.8 million to 12.7 million tonnes of plastics entering oceans each year.
WWF-Malaysia estimates that with current trends of plastic consumption and poor recycling, the volume of plastic waste will increase four times between 2010 and 2050, potentially leaving the ocean with more plastic than fish.
Malaysia can play its part in solving the problem but local manufacturers need to adopt the the EPR scheme as a policy, with legislation to follow.
WWF-Malaysia is a founding member of Malaysia Sustainable Plastic Alliance, a multi-stakeholder platform including Malaysian Plastic Manufacturers Association and Malaysian Plastic Recyclers Association. – October 11, 2020.
By: Hailey Chung Wee Kye
Credit: The Malaysian Insight