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Rubbish - Think seriously about it

Sentuhan Bayu. I do welcome this. It should be extended to the whole Malaysia & not restricted to Saturdays.

Monday November 8, 2010

Rubbish - Think seriously about it
Monday Starters - By Soo Ewe Jin

YOU can take a Penangite out of Penang, but never the Penang out of a Penangite. Few in the Penang diaspora scattered around the country – primarily in the Klang Valley – and all over the world will disagree with me on this statement. Somehow, no matter how far we are, or how long we have been disconnected from the island, any news from there, good or bad, is bound to perk our interest. When it was announced last Tuesday that the state’s “No Plastic Bag” ruling would be extended to every day from the beginning of next year, it was the top-read and the top-emailed story on Star Online. I am quite sure that the majority of those captivated by this news item are Penangites. Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said feedback from 73 participants of the Declaration to Reduce the Use of Plastic Bags had shown that a total of 32 million plastic bags were saved under the “No Plastic Bag” programme between July 1, 2009 and Oct 26 this year.

The new ruling will initially cover all hypermarkets, supermarkets, departmental stores, pharmacies, fast-food restaurants, nasi kandar restaurants and convenience stores (including those at petrol stations). Operators of mini-markets and sole proprietorships will also be asked to enforce the ruling but for three days a week – Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. While the move is a step forward to make us more environmentally-conscious, the bigger issue is still to reduce the amount of trash that we generate. In The Star’s special report on landfills last week, we learnt that Malaysians generate close to 20,000 tonnes of garbage every day. As we struggle to find a safe way to dispose of the trash, the reality is that the 1kg which we dump each day, per individual, is inflating our waste heaps by 2% to 3% annually.Landfills have their limitations and no one wants to have an incinerator in their own backyard. If there is a semblance of hope, it is that environmental awareness among Malaysians is growing. It is heartening to see individuals doing their part to reuse, reduce and recycle, and for Corporate Malaysia to also embrace the Green Agenda. But the lifestyle of a consumerist-minded society often runs ahead of whatever measures one may take, either as an individual, or as a group. Even forsaking the use of plastic bags each Saturday, and in the case of Penang, every day from 2011, will not mean much if we still purchase more products than we need. And what about the excessive packaging that goes into each product?

Apple recently launched its MacBook Air and Steven Jobs was going to town with the many green aspects of his latest gadget. Ironically, one of its products, MobileMe, comes with a very cute cardboard box which contains an activation code stuck on a fan-folded piece of heavy paper. But the software is actually downloaded from the Apple website and, as one critic wrote, “what comes in the box is... virtually nothing.”
It reminds me of the excessive packaging for moon cakes.
We need to get back to basics. Penang is a hawkers’ paradise and many of us will recall that there was very minimal packaging previously. We made do with old newspapers and banana leaves, not styrofoam boxes and plastic bags.

Of course, this is not a unique Penang problem but applies nationwide. Still, bearing in mind that Penang’s unofficial motto is “Let Penang Lead”, it would be good if the state leads the battle against excessive packaging and over-consumption. If nothing else, it will surely make CAP’s S.M. Idris a very happy man.

Deputy executive editor Soo Ewe Jin is glad that Guan Eng in addressing the Penang diaspora in Singapore back in June 2009 declared that, “Penang people are not kiam [stingy]. They are just khiam [thrifty].” Of course, you have to be a Penangite to understand the nuances between these two words.

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