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Malaysia Plastics Sustainability Roadmap

High-level Seminar on Malaysia Plastics Sustainability Roadmap 2021-2030

June 14th, 2022 – We had been invited to attend a high-level seminar on Malaysia Plastics Sustainability Roadmap 2021-2030 that was taking place at JW Marriot Hotel, Kuala Lumpur. The seminar was attended by the main parties in deciding the future of Malaysia’s plastic economy movement which includes the Ministry of Environment and Water (KASA),  SIRIM STS, Malaysian Plastics Manufacturers Association (MPMA), and many other top company producers in this plastics industry.

The aim of the program is to update on the progress of the roadmap that has been going since 2021, alongside the introduction of new technology in biodegradable products that can be considered as an alternative for single-used plastics. We were as well taking this opportunity to place our brand new biodegradable polypropylene plastic bags on display (refer to images below) as preparation for creating a healthier environment for the sake of our next generation. 

Our biodegradable polypropylene plastic bags has passed the test for BSI PAS 9017:2020 and has proven to have the capability to fully biodegraded in an open air-terrestrial within 6-24 months duration of time. The test is yet believed to be soon recognized and implemented by SIRIM as it is the first test that has been introduced to grade the biodegradability of polyolefins worldwide. We are hoping that the development of the technology in producing better quality plastics will effectively reduce the burden of the government to lead our country into one of the healthiest places to live. 

If plastic bags were banned

If plastic bags were banned, how would our world be affected?

Before we go deeper into this topic, let’s take a little tour of the history of plastic and how it’s developed. Back in 1907, New York, the first-ever fully synthetic plastic was invented by Leo Baekeland better known as Bakelite (Polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride). Since then, the world has started to produce more different types of plastics as such polyethylene, polypropylene, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Each type of plastic has different properties and serves different purposes as we can observe from our daily routine. Just look at what’s in your hand, or maybe in your pocket, we bring it with us every day!

Plastic bags are available in various materials and types, but yes, they are all plastics anyway. Currently, we have high-density polyethylene (HDPE) bags, low-density polyethylene (LDPE) bags, polypropylene (PP) bags, and much more in the market. Even we are now equipped with biodegradable and compostable bags, but it will cost more for the end-users. The question is, should these bags get banned too? We’ll leave it for those experts and data to decide.

So how the world would be affected by this? First thing first, how do you get affected by this? No plastic bags for groceries? It does sound like trouble, but we still have an alternative for that -paper bags as for example. No plastic bags for snacks? Now that sounds serious. Does it mean no snacks for us? That is good for diet somehow ~ How about no plastic bags for blood collection?!

As mentioned earlier, different plastics serve different purposes and some of them are highly demanded in almost all main industries including food and beverage (F&B), pharmaceutical, engineering, and more. Depending on their benefits towards our development, the total ban on plastics will cost a tremendous effect on our daily life and it is fair to say that we are too much forward beyond stepping back from using plastics.

Regarding our issue on plastic bags, it does apply the same concept. Some plastic bags with less function or if there is any better option that is available in the market, we can say that it is fine to live without one. In other cases where plastic bags play a much more important role, banning this would be impossible without a proper backup plan! And to keep using plastics also will going to need one absolute plan!

Single-use Plastic

Single-use Plastic: Where are we heading?

On 10th December 2021, Malaysia’s Minister of Environment and Water, Datuk Seri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man launched an initiative effort to address plastic pollution in Malaysia, named Malaysia Plastics Sustainability Roadmap 2021-2030. The framework is to call the action towards Zero Single-Use Plastic endorsed by the Cabinet back in 2018.

What does it mean by single-use plastics? Single-use plastics are goods made primarily by petrochemicals and designed to be disposed of right after use, commonly produced for packaging such as plastic bags, bottles, straws, and more. The problem with single-use plastic is that even though it is decomposable, but it takes an exceedingly long time to decompose under normal conditions.

Based on data produced in the report from UNEP on Single-Use Plastic Sustainability, in 2014, Asia had produced the most single-use plastics with 38% from the whole globe. China was notified as the nation to contribute the biggest number from the percentage in the Asia region, followed by Indonesia. According to the data as well, polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE) were the two most common polymers used in single-use plastics’ production found among the waste. These two materials are used to manufacture packaging products specifically for the food and beverage industry as such plastic bags.

More nations had come to conclude on banning the usage of single-use plastics from the countries, as most recently announced by the France government. However, some exemptions for a certain type of packaging were made due to the lack of alternative materials invented to replace plastics. There is no denying that plastics play a key role in keeping the freshness of most products, especially for products with a short shelf-life like fruits and vegetables. Plastic packaging can prolong the shelf-life of the product with a significant amount of time for it to be transported around the regions and sold to the end-user.

Keeping the waste of the packaging in a manner way is much as important as keeping the best quality of the products itself. Data in 2015 resembles that only 2% out of 14% of recycled waste had been effectively recycled, while the number of wastes that were lost during the recycling process doubled the number. In this respect, the government must imply a very well-strategized plan to deal with the issue of pollution caused by the usage of plastics. As been suggested by UNEP (2018) in their report, they had listed a 10-step roadmap for governments based on the experiences of 60 countries around the globe, which include using revenues collected from taxes or levies on single-use plastics to maximize the public good.

The responsibility of dealing with the waste from single-use plastics is not to be placed on a single hand since it is an issue that involves the whole level of organization. The government, as the main controller of a nation, must encourage the movement towards a healthier world by providing all the necessary resources for data gathering, research, innovation, awareness campaign, and incentives for this transition to take place as it supposes. Regulating new enforcement alone without a clear and smart action plan to cover up the outcome of removing single-use plastic from a community is a big ask to ask.

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