@Green March/April 2022 | Page 19

March-April , 2022 | @ green



From protector to polluter

Plastic waste generation has increased significantly since the Covid-19 outbreak
ety . What would make a plastic neutral society possible ? The one word would be circularity .
“ To do that , we need to bring all stakeholders , the players within the entire ecosystem including the consumers , to shift from an indirect polluter to become a protector .”
Seah said technology helped the industry tap into plastics ’ inherent , intrinsic value so they could later possess good commercial value . He then explained three significant types of technology that could address the increase of plastic waste due to the pandemic , including thermal recycling , mechanical or material recycling and chemical recycling .
He then elaborated that technology alone would not solve the plastic pollution issue and highlighted that it needed to work hand in hand with collaborations .
Dato ’ Johnson Yoon
Seah Kian Hoe
Dr Sivapalan Kathiravale
Dato ’ Dr Nadzri Yahaya

THE Covid-19 pandemic which has resulted in the widespread use of sanitisers , latex gloves and single-use face masks , has contributed to the increase in plastic waste production globally . It is estimated that 1.6 million tonnes of plastic waste per day have been generated worldwide since the outbreak . This situation has become a global concern , especially in Malaysia , where only 20 per cent of its waste goes to recycling facilities .

During the 2nd Annual Waste Management and Sustainability Forums ( WMSF 2022 ), a panel discussion entitled ‘ From protector to the polluter , Covid-19 is aggravating the plastic waste crisis ’ was held to discuss the plastic waste crisis in Malaysia caused by the pandemic .
The session was moderated by Dato ’ Dr Nadzri Yahaya , Chairman of the Association of Environmental Consultants and Companies and featured Seah Kian Hoe , Managing Director of Heng Hiap Industries ( HHI ), Dato ’ Johnson Yoon , Secretary-General of Malaysia Plastics Recyclers Association , and Dr Sivapalan Kathiravale , Head of Centre of Excellence for Waste Management , Environmental Preservation & Innovation Centre .
Sivapalan shared that the industry had seen a 30 per cent increase in medical waste for the last two years , solely contributed by personal protective equipment
( PPE ), masks and other things that were used in the medical industry . He emphasised that the pandemic also affected other related services , and attention should be given to the whole value chain that contributed to the waste production .
Sivapalan gave an example of courier services that created more packaging materials . “ The thing is , how do we connect the dots between the end-user and the recycler , and from the recycler to the manufacturer again .
“ Not all plastics are economically recyclable . There are other plastics that are almost impossible to recycle . The technology is available to recycle anything , but it is the economics that underlines whether we want to recycle it or not .”
He then argued about the economies of scale , pointing out that the cost of recycled materials would not make sense to be sold against virgin materials .
Technology for recycling activities
According to Seah , plastic pollution had been making headlines even before the pandemic . He said if all parties in the entire value chain worked independently and in a silo manner , they might become indirect polluters to the whole ecosystem .
“ We ( HHI ) believe that 50 years from now , we will live in a plastic neutral soci-
Homogeneous and clean waste
Yoon pointed out the problem faced by plastic recyclers , saying : “ There ’ s an impression that in our society or our environment , there ’ s a lot of plastic waste . But , on the other hand , as plastic recyclers , we face the problem of insufficient raw material , which is plastic scrap .”
He then shared that the limitation of mechanical recycling in Malaysia was the lack of homogeneous waste .
“ For us , as mechanical recyclers now , we need a homogeneous and very clean waste . Most of our scrap is from industrial waste instead of consumer waste .
“ We try to educate the public and the public has to know what things can be sent for recycling .”
Sivapalan added that the recycling practice , where people could sell recyclable materials at the tuck shop , should be brought back into society . Additionally , he again highlighted the higher cost of recycled materials compared to virgin materials .
“ Ten years back , when we converted plastic to diesel , the value of the end diesel was close to RM2.50 . In an international market , it would still fetch money , but in Malaysia , because we are a subsidised economy , our diesel was RM1.75 . But that is a depleting fuel diesel which is being sold cheaper rather than green diesel .
“ So , it is not something we can answer as individuals . It will need collaborative efforts in answering all the questions .” — @ Green