When one says that they are down in the dumps, it is most likely that they are referring to a very sad situation on a figurative basis. It’s a metaphor to describe the emotion of sadness when one is going through an unfortunate event. However, in the case of waste that plagues our environment, it might be literal to say that we are down in the dumps.
In Malaysia’s case, it may be a literal situation but that doesn’t make it any less preventable. By the year of 2020, although our carbon footprint was reduced because of lockdowns, the amount of trash accumulated each day was over 30,000 tonnes. And regardless of all the recycling initiatives and policies, less than 5% of that waste was recycled, or reused. As a consequence, the standard hierarchy of our waste management (reuse, reduce, recycling, treatment and disposal) was demotivated.
However, it isn’t entirely Malaysia’s fault, or any country’s fault who is facing the same thing in this matter.
From what we know, in 2020, it was reported that 1,800 tonnes of illegal waste was dumped at a port with it being their “biggest find in history”. Discovered within the 110 containers were 1864 tonnes of furnace dust produced from steel production. If one was to come in contact with such a hazard, they find themselves in a vulnerable state of colds, lung sickness and many more problems due to the debris and the fungi that might result from the waste. Considering how it was dumped recklessly on a port, it was safe to say that it could have potentially awoken many issues within those living near it. Despite the negative prospects, that was quickly pushed aside in the form of a fortunate event, with the quick discovery leading to the waste being investigated and imported to where it seemingly came from: Romania.
There has been an issue that has gathered some attention in the last few years, and it might be referred to as a crisis rather than an issue. The Global Trash crisis is one that involves developing countries such as Malaysia and Philippines serving as other countries’ waste dumps. Over the last few years, Malaysia has faced an increase in waste and a larger number of waste exporters due to advancements and an ignorance in waste management in their respective nations. As of now, Malaysian authorities have already reported and suspended 28 attempts for illegal imports but if measures are taken, it can conclude into diplomatic disagreements. For example, when Canada missed its deadline to withdraw its waste from the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to declare war over the situation.
That’s not to say that the rise in hazardous and toxic waste problems is not for Malaysia to take blame.
With the country being the 18th most global competitive economy, it’s needless to say that Malaysia is one of the fastest developing nations. But, a debate follows such a goal: which should we put first? The environment or our economy?
It is rational to say that without a good economy, we simply wouldn’t have the resources to nurture and help our environment but in enriching our economy, we are also placing more burdens upon our environment. To cite the intechopen.com, “The continued increase in waste generation in Malaysia has been associated with the growing population and the growing economy.” Since manufacturers and businesses will have to pursue and fulfil the demands of varied lifestyles, there is a growing need for more services, along with a growing number of waste generation, due to factors like high energy consumption. Through its development, Malaysia has acknowledged these negative outcomes therefore setting many environmental policies but as aforementioned, is ineffectual. The irresponsibility and results from environmental hazardous substances (EHS) doesn’t just limit to officials, but individuals. In 2019, authorities found around 148 unlicensed recycling factories that were contaminating bodies of water nearby, and polluting communities with their unhealthy fumes. During that year, a southern Johor state was affected by toxic waste recklessly dumped nearby, causing over 2000 to fall ill, including children and leaving some in critical condition.
Regarding the nation’s steps to taking furtherance for the economy, it regrettably leads to more consumption and disposal of plastic. The environment has garnered enough awareness for one to know the antagonistic narrative of this material. It isn’t biodegradable, it sends more microplastic into all states of matter, it takes a long time for it to decompose, and it’s conclusively not friendly to the environment. And as a result, the problem of waste persists.
I can’t convey much through my words for they do not speak as loud as my actions. Nonetheless, I could still recommend ways as to how you could take action in your daily life, starting with using and buying less toxic alternatives. Your air freshener and deodorizer? Use methods such as burning scented candles, putting baking soda on the bottom of your trash can, and pouring baking soda down the drain. Your polishes? Use salt or lemon juice for metals, use some mild vegetable oil soap for your wood, and water or white vinegar for your floors. If not, be sure to read the labels before buying anything. The waste in Malaysia largely consists of flammable solvents, toxic paint, corrosive cleaners, metal waste (such as unused batteries), expired drugs, mercury, and more. In the words of Cato the Elder, buy what you need, not what you want. When you are about to purchase something, use up what you have firstly, dispose of it properly, then renew it.
After all, a new day brings new opportunities. Let’s not be so down in the dumps now.