Leonardo DiCaprio, an actor turned environmentalist, once said, “We only have one planet.”
One planet- Earth that we can live on, for now, is a planet that we should give our all to protect and preserve. But sadly, waste production is increasing from day to day as there is a lack of awareness among people even with many technological advancements. If waste production is tapped rightfully there will be a drastic drop in landfills. ‘Reduce’, ‘Reuse’ and ‘Recycle’ or also commonly known as 3R have become the everyday words that lead towards sustainability and waste management and are seen as a significant aspect of Circular Economy.
According to the National Solid Waste Management Department, in two years, Malaysia alone wasted RM476 million worth of recyclable items. Khazanah Research Institute revealed that in 2018, Malaysia is still lower by 40% as compared to Singapore on recycling rates.
If this does not alarm the people of Malaysia, then it should a distressing issue at the national level.
We need to take a step forward into treating recycling, especially into major initiatives.
As a start, here are three interesting facts about recycling that you probably didn’t know and will probably give you a glimpse of how you can play your parts in embracing recycling;
Fact 1: Japan used recyclable materials in Olympic Tokyo 2020
Japan took sustainability to the next level by using recycled components in Olympic Tokyo 2020. Among those items were medals, beds, and uniforms. The infamous gold, silver, and bronze medals were made of recycled metals from electrical equipment. whereas the beds where athletes rested were carefully designed and constructed with cardboards which goes into recycling efforts upon the end of the games. Most interestingly, the uniforms worn by the torchbearers were made of recycled Coca-Cola bottles. Clothes from recycled bottles, now that is a twist!
Fact 2: Not all plastics waste can be recycled in Malaysia
7 types of plastics are found in our homes. Wait, what, 7 types? Yes, 7 types of different plastics exist. However, only three of them are recyclable in Malaysia namely Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), High-density Polyethylene (HDPE), and Polypropylene (PP). The items made of these plastics are clear bottles, white milk bottles, bleach & detergent bottles, bottle caps, plastic straw, and luggage. Sadly, Malaysia is still unable to recycle (Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE), Polystyrene (PS) and Bisphenol A and others (O)) as we lack facilities to do so. We should level up technologies in this!
Fact 3: Contact lenses, dead pets, and dentures are also recyclable
Do you use contact lenses? Now, this is for you.
Local optometrists in Canada are recycling disposable contact lenses and their packaging where they are melted into plastics and then remoulded into a new product. In Germany, dead pets are brought to a recycling depot and rendered down for their fat (glycerin), which is then used to produce cosmetics such as lip balm. In Japan, a non-profit association extracts metal elements from donated dentures, crowns, inlays, and bridges. The metals were then sold to recycling centres. The association gained more than RM1 million through this initiative which was then donated to a humanitarian organization UNICEF.
It is either 3R Today, or Never
3R campaigns are not alien terms globally but require more attention among people and policy-makers to ensure continuous efforts in sustainability. Countries as Japan incorporate innovative approaches in embracing recycling whereas some countries require more enforcement in carrying out effective initiatives especially among the public. People must understand that ineffective waste management only leads to pollution and increase the chances of having poor health amongst the people of a nation.
It is today, we mitigate this issue, and delays in implying 3R may only lead to severe destruction. Let us be an example for the coming generation!
Nurul Fatehan Sulaiman, Iman Shukri