With about 1,300 plastic manufacturing companies in the country, Malaysia is a global player in the plastic industry. In 2016 alone, plastic exports from Malaysia amounted to RM30 billion, which saw about 2.3 million metric tonnes of resins used to produce plastics.
The increase in population in Malaysia also translates to a rise in the generation of solid waste, such as plastic bags and disposable water bottles. However, the situation is set to change. With over 16 million tonnes of waste expected to be generated by over 30 million Malaysians in 2020, the Malaysian government plans to reduce the waste disposed on landfills.
The reduction is likely to amount to 40 per cent through 22 per cent recycling and 80 per cent intermediate treatment like waste-to-energy, composting, and material recovery.
Landfilling is currently the ultimate waste disposal method that can deal with many types of materials in Malaysia, and most of the garbage ends on landfill sites.
Most landfill sites across the country involve small scale operations with different designs. Also, a lot of these sites are poorly maintained. Other waste disposal sites are the open dumpsites, where waste is illegally disposed.
The first waste-to-energy facility in Malaysia, situated at Taman Beringin in the capital city Kuala Lumpur, is expected to start operations with an estimated capacity of 1,000 tonnes per day. The Malaysian government also announced plans to build an ecological industrial park in the Klang Valley.
The park is intended to feature a primary industry and a waste generation centre to enable primary industrial waste to be reused by secondary industries.
In addition, the Malaysian government has provided incentives in the form of an investment tax allowance for the purchase of green technology assets and income tax exemptions for the use of green technology services and systems to help strengthen the development of green technology. Incentives are also available for the establishment of Waste Eco Parks (WEP).
In Malaysia, the ban on the ordinary plastic bags favouring the biodegradable and compostable plastics bags official took effect in 2017. The prohibition prompted an increase in the price of plastic bags.
However, the cost of the increase is borne by the traders, who are prohibited from charging consumers for environmental-friendly packaging or increasing the price of their goods to make up for the higher expenditure.
Biodegradable plastic bags are made using enzymatic or chemical reactions to help break down the material faster when exposed to the elements such as sun and air. This technology presents many benefits over traditional plastic materials.
It is no longer news that the traditional plastics are made using harmful by-products and chemicals detrimental to life and the environment. These conventional plastics emit the toxic by-products during the breakdown process. But, that is not the case with biodegradable plastics.
Biodegradable plastics are safe and don’t release toxins during their breakdown process. They are easily absorbed by the soil, which makes them a preferred and safe substitute.
Biodegradable plastics are those packaging bags that can decompose naturally in the environment. The makeup structure of biodegradable plastics makes them be easily broken down by microorganisms such as bacteria, giving an end product that is less harmful to the environment.
Therefore, biodegradable plastics bags are seen to be more eco-friendly because of their environmental benefits, which are hard to deny compared to ordinary plastic bags. Since 2017, the switch from ordinary plastic bags to biodegradable plastic bags in Malaysia has received a good response from the consumer.
More and more consumers, especially those from the younger generation, are becoming increasingly conscious regarding the use of biodegradable plastic bags. Efforts by all parties in the switch from ordinary plastic bags to biodegradable plastic bags have ensured sustainable waste management in Malaysia.
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