Engaging Youth to Tackle Plastic Pollution Crisis
In every BB4SCP conference, WWF-Malaysia brings forward pressing global issues that need immediate attention. Concerned by the statement that Malaysia ranks 8th among nations that mismanage waste, this year more than 80 youth delegates participated in the conference to gain knowledge and find solutions to this crisis.
The versatility of plastic has helped our daily life in numerous ways. Unfortunately, poor waste collection and treatment have given rise to their pervasive presence in nature. Plastic has contaminated the soil, rivers and oceans. Every year, more than 1.1 million seabirds and animals died of ingesting plastic. It has even entered our food chain. Based on a study commissioned by WWF, people could be consuming on average over 100,000 microplastics every year.
WWF’s ultimate goal is to stop plastic leakage into nature by 2030. We advocate producers and businesses to design products and packaging materials with recovery and circularity in mind. By this, the life-cycle of the materials is extended, therefore reducing the use of natural resources to produce plastic materials in the first place. However, we also call for an in-depth study to understand the trade-offs when substituting plastic with alternative materials or redesigning packaging because without an effective waste separation and collection and disposal system, this initiative will not bring about a significant reduction of plastic waste entering the environment.
Addressing this issue requires a collective action along the entire life cycle of plastic - production, consumption and disposal. It requires a joint effort such as policies and stronger enforcement from the government, innovative and sustainable solutions from industry players and behavioural change among consumers.
In this conference, we look towards our youth, our future leaders, to help find solutions to the global crisis of plastic pollution. “WWF-Malaysia always highlights the importance of engaging young people in discussions and plans for combatting environmental issues. There is a growing shift in the way they engage and communicate these days. Social exchanges and expressions are rapidly moving to the digital arena and it has become a tool to influence and negotiate. This digital generation is more informed, more tech-savvy and more connected than any generation before”, Dr Henry Chan, Conservation Director of WWF-Malaysia mentioned during the closing ceremony.
Exposed to various platforms to exchange ideas, the youth delegates took part in workshops, parallel sessions, round-table discussions, and field trips. The conference also invited industry experts, social enterprise vendors, and business owners to help paint a better understanding of plastic pollution crisis.
The conference urged individuals to reduce or stop using single-use plastics, replace disposable plastic water bottles to a reusable one, exchange plastic grocery bags with reusable cloth bags or check plastic packaging if it is recyclable upon purchasing the item. Conference resolutions from the roundtable discussions with industry experts and delegates were documented and will be presented to the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC), relevant stakeholders and general assemblies & international meetings.
“MESTECC is pleased to see the conference revolves around the challenges and issues of plastic pollution in our country because we need to rethink the way we consume, manage, recover and source plastic. This initiative complements Malaysia’s Roadmap Towards Zero Single-Use Plastics 2018–2030 which is a national effort to enhance recycling rates, reduce waste disposal to landfills and prevent waste leakages, while promoting circularity of the economy. He also stressed that our collective efforts at individual level to make positive changes to live in harmony with nature is an important catalyst towards a cleaner and greener Malaysia”, explained Dr K. Nagulendran, Deputy Secretary-General for Environment & Climate Change, MESTECC who came to support the youth conference.
“We officially collaborated with WWF-Malaysia for the first time because the theme ‘What’s with Plastics?’ is very relevant to us,” said Dato’ Raymond Sng, MPMA Vice-President of the Malaysian Plastics Manufacturers Association (MPMA).
“In addition, it is important to provide a platform to educate youth about ways to reduce environmental pollutants. They will take the knowledge into the future and demand for change when they are in the position to do so”, he elaborated.
In the effort to bridge the gap between consumers and producers, the BB4SCP conference also featured a sustainable fair sponsored and hosted by Paradigm Mall where more than twenty green vendors provided alternatives for sustainable options, in terms of consumer products, services and ideas. This is to demonstrate that there is always a solution or an alternative to our current lifestyle.