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Zero waste management for a better nation    

By Ravindran Raman Kutty

WHY Zero Waste is important for Malaysia’s Waste Management is a topic always close to my heart.

Having spent five with a leading waste management company, I am always attracted to the topic, forum or any conference.

Fortunately, my ex-colleague who met me at the Majlis Bandaraya Petaling Jaya conference on Waste Management made a point of inviting me for the recent Waste Management Conference on Zero Waste, organised by Majlis Bandaraya Shah Alam.

The Zero Waste is a wonderful idea, promoting the redesigning of the life cycles of our resources so that all products are reused. No trash is sent to landfills and incinerators.

The process recommended is one similar to the way that resources are reused in nature.

“Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, and efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.

Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.

Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.

Zero Waste refers to waste management and planning approaches which emphasize waste prevention as opposed to end of pipe waste management.

It is a whole-systems approach that aims for a massive change in the way materials flow through society, resulting in no waste.

Zero waste encompasses more than eliminating waste through recycling and reuse; it focuses on restructuring production and distribution systems to reduce waste.

Zero waste is more of a goal or ideal rather than a hard target. Zero Waste provides guiding principles for continually working towards eliminating waste.

Eliminating waste from the outset requires heavy involvement primarily from industry and government since they are presented with more advantages than individuals.

Zero waste will not be possible without significant efforts and actions from industry and government.

Industry has control over product and packaging design, manufacturing processes, and material selection.

Governments have the ability to form policy and provide subsidies for better product manufacturing, design and the ability to develop and adopt comprehensive waste management strategies which can eliminate waste rather than just manage

Every two hours we throw out enough stuff to fill the world’s largest container ship with trash. That’s 12 container ships each day, and 4,380 container ships in one year. We produce 35,000 tons waste daily. 95 percent of the waste goes to landfill.

Our waste composition is 64 percent domestic or municipal waste, 25 percent is industrial waste and eight percent is commercial waste. The profile of our waste is 45 percent food waste, 24 percent plastics, 15 percent others, 7 percent paper, six percent metal and percent glass.

Our waste production is increasing. By 2030 the amount of household waste will almost double to 3,000 million tons annually. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Every bag of household waste has produced approximately 70 bags of waste upstream during extraction and production processes. Where does our waste go?

Most waste is either poured into landfills or burned. Burning waste is the world’s largest source of dioxins, which is one of the most toxic chemicals known to science. What can we do? Our waste problem will not disappear by itself.

We need to find new ways to solve the increasing waste problem. The “cradle-to-cradle” approach implies essentially waste-free regenerative systems.

Leading green companies have already applied these principles.

Zero Waste should be the agenda for every citizen of the world. While we Malaysians are struggling with a mere 17 percent recycling rate, I think the best solution is to adopt a zero waste solution to make a better environment, a better Malaysia and ultimately a better world.

Let’s not treat waste as a callous or simple matter. It will soon become a disaster if we fail to institute proper measures to educate and enforce the appropriate laws to bring about a civic society which is mindful of proper waste management.

Everyone can do it. We must decrease the amount of waste generated. Eat healthier. Live economically. Consistently improve the environmental quality.

Reduce exposure to toxic and artificial colours and sweeteners. Ensure that we lead a sustainable way of life.

Zero waste must be started now so that our future generations will enjoy the fresh air, clean water, clear sunshine and clean earth. We need to change our current practices and attitude towards waste management for a cleaner future.

The smarter proposition for waste management would be the Zero Waste philosophy.

*The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Times (TMT).

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