BY Roznah Abdul Jabbar
The call to “reuse, reduce, recycle” is not something new for Malaysians as it is a campaign that has been propagated for the past three decades. The most recent push is enforcement of domestic waste segregation in accordance to the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act 2007 or Act 672.
Although the move has been commended by the general public, many are still unclear about its implementation.
According to RCMC Sdn Bhd director Richard Chan, although of compulsory waste separation is laudable, there will be problems when it comes to implementation and enforcement.
Chan, who is also a committee member for Building Management Association of Malaysia, said that the practice was initiated in September 2015 before the full enforcement this month, but there is no improvement in collection.
“There are some places where residents are being cooperative in segregating the waste, but the garbage trucks are putting everything together during collection. This is such a waste of effort by the public,” he said.
Chan said that the government should concentrate on creating awareness by going down to the ground level to educate the public on the benefits and how to go about it.
Despite claims by the appointed agency, Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Corporation (SWCorp), that they are actively boosting awareness, many are still grey on the matter.
A field check by Real Spaces found that many are unaware about the details of the implementation.
Sharifah Hasliza Syed Ali, a resident in KL, said that although there are boards and banners on the implementation, she is unclear on how it should be practised.
She said in other countries, people are clear about implementation and practices before enforcement and punishments are imposed.
Some residents complain that though they have separated and placed the waste in the designated areas, no collection has been observed from the authority.
Echoing Chan’s concern, a resident also said that the neighbourhood garbage collectors are throwing the separated rubbish onto the same truck.
“Should we place the separated waste in a specific place which we are not aware of? Are we doing it right?” asked a resident.
Many are infuriated as enforcement is now being exercised without proper awareness and guidelines.
Chan said that the government should have conducted effective awareness campaigns on how to carry out this regulation.
“To say that we are not ready is wrong, but we need better education. Some people need to be educated first-hand, especially the low-cost home residents,” he said.
He added that expecting people to understand everything within a short time and being punitive about it is not a fair act.
“The campaign is not sufficient as it was very generic and vague. The government should find a way to go down to ground level to connect with and educate the public,” Chan added.
However, some people are more optimistic, saying that the government just needs to motivate people and enforce the habit, and as time goes by, it will become common practice.
Regarding separation in garbage bags of different colours, some said it is an improper request as the public will be using four times more plastic bags than usual and will have increased expenses purchasing the bags of different colours.
On this, SWCorp said that the use of different colours of plastic bags is only encouraged but is not mandatory. People are advised to place paper in blue bags; plastic in yellow or white bags; and glass, ceramic, metal, leather and such in green bags. The non-recyclables can go into the black garbage bags.
According to SWCorp, the compulsory waste separation was announced by the Urban Well-being, Housing and Local Government Ministry last September and is fully enforced effective from June 1. Residents who fail to separate their household wastes will face legal action.
The enforcement is effective in two federal territories and six states — Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur, Johor, Malacca, Negeri Sembilan, Kedah, Perlis and Pahang.
According to SWCorp, the offenders staying in landed properties will be fined RM50, followed by RM100 and RM500 for the first three offences, respectively. If the fines remain unpaid, the offenders can be taken to the court and charged with a maximum fine of RM1,000.
For high-rise residents, the offenders will have to pay RM100, followed by RM200 and RM500 for every subsequent offence. The fourth offence is liable for legal action and a fine up to RM1,000. For non-landed buildings, concessionaires will supply recyclable bins at collection points and each bin will cost roughly RM300 (borne by whom is still unclear; it may be the management or the residents).