WAKE-UP CALL:By 2020, it is estimated that our daily garbage disposed will be the size of 20 football fields
Based on statistics by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, by 2020 there will be over 9.1 million tonnes of solid waste disposed yearly, with an estimated population of 36 million people.
The alarming scenario was shared during a recent public awareness talk entitled "Talking Rubbish: No Rubbish (no money) No Talk", in conjunction with the World Environment Day organised by Petaling Jaya City Council.
The National Coordinator from Ministry of Housing and Local Government, Dr Theng Lee Chong, said awareness campaigns would not bear fruit if the public does not minimise waste from the source.
"The public must change their attitudes towards reducing waste for the future generations. They must manage their waste well and enhance the 3R concept of reduce, reuse and recycle," he said.
Theng said that based on his findings, about 50 per cent of solid waste from houses is food waste. However, the percentage of food waste increases to 70 when it arrives at the landfill. Composting of food waste should be done in every municipality to reduce waste at landfills.
"Empty bottles, paper and plastic from the household waste will be taken by scavengers for recycling purposes. But the food waste will remain and it will finally top the percentage of household solid waste in the landfill," he said.
He also advised people to change their thinking that they are helping the scavengers by throwing recyclable items together with their other solid waste into the dustbin.
"The scavengers at the landfill are exposed to health hazards and other problems. There are reported cases of landfills catching fire. Some landfills are visited by child scavengers and this could be dangerous when mishaps happen ," he said
Theng also cited an example of a Manila dumpsite tragedy in 2000 which claimed the lives of more than 30 scavengers.
There are places in Japan where landfills are banned. Modern incinerators are used to eliminate waste there. Success stories of the use of incinerators to convert waste to energy in developed countries are fine examples which the country can adopt, said Theng.
Industrial waste in the country's landfill are also estimated to be 10 times more than solid waste. With better data management system at council level, the source of the problem can be identified and better industrial waste management system can be implemented.
Theng said based on a source from World Bank in 1999, Japan's population of 127.6 million produced municipal solid waste totaling 42.6 million tonnes. But its industrial waste was at a staggering 389.7 million tonnes.
He also encouraged more good practices among the public such as food separation and composting of food waste.
Theng also supported the Petaling Jaya city council's efforts to set up the food bank which will help channel access edible processed food from hotels and restaurants, instead of being dumped into the landfill.
"Let's try to turn waste into wealth. It is possible," he said.
Petaling Jaya city council's Director of Environment and Health Dr Chithradavi Vadivellu said the average council waste is 450 tonnes daily with an average waste of 0.7kg per person. She said it is higher than the national average of 0.5kg per person. This could be due to the higher standard of living and non-proper waste management system.
"I hope that with talks like these, the public will place greater importance on practising the 3Rs," she said.
Chitra added that the council now sees fewer public complaints on domestic waste collection. Still, the bulk waste and garden waste problems remain.