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Malaysia is known for many things like nasi lemak, beautiful beaches, the twin-towers and 1MDB but did you know we are actually also famous for plastic pollution? 

MALAYSIA'S PLASTIC POLLUTION

Malaysia's plastic pollution

Malaysia is known for many things like nasi lemak, beautiful beaches, the twin-towers and 1MDB but did you know we are actually also famous for plastic pollution? Not for solving it but adding more of it. So in this post, let us explore Malaysia’s plastic pollution and see how we stack up to nearby countries and also take a look inwards and see how different states and federal territories stack up against each other.

Let us take a look at how Malaysia stack up to these 5 neighboring countries, China, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam. The reason for selecting these countries is because because a recent WWF report on plastics discovered that these 6 countries were responsible for 60% of the estimated 8 million tonnes of plastics that enters our ocean each year. And this amount is expected to quadruple between 2010 and 2050, meaning that by 2050, the ocean will contain more plastics than fish by weight. Now back to the topic, let us first take a look on the annual plastic waste produced by these countries in 2010. 

Plastic Waste Produced in 2010

The bar graph above shows the annual plastic waste each country produced back in 2010. Do note that the figures shown are 2010 statistics gotten from Our World in Data. We can expect a much higher level in 2021 as the global plastic production has also been increasing consistently each year from around 270 million tonnes back in 2010 to 367 million tonnes in 2020, while global plastic recycling rate is only around 9% in the few recent years. And with the pandemic and recent historical drop in oil prices where oil futures actually when negative back in April 2020, the demand for virgin plastics have drastically increased as they are much cheaper and due to hygienic concerns during the pandemic, the demand for single-use plastics have drastically increased. More on this topic on another blog post. 

From the bar graph, we can see that Malaysia actually produced the least amount of plastic waste. So, I guess we’re doing quite good after all, eh? Not quite. This is because, the absolute value of plastic pollution isn’t really an accurate and fair way to present a country’s plastic waste generation. Simply because, the more people a country has, the higher the absolute value of plastic consumption a country naturally has. What we should really be looking at is the plastic consumption per capita of each country. This will give us a fairer insight on the level of responsibility, awareness, and education of citizens in each country.

Plastic Waste Per Capita Produced in 2010

Plastic Waste Per Capita Produced in 2010

By looking at the per-capita plastic waste consumption, it seems that we are not doing great after all. Even though this data is from 10 years back, we believe this comparison still holds true in 2021 looking at how much Malaysia loves plastic. Because why wouldn’t we? According to the World Bank, the plastic manufacturing industry in Malaysia churns out US$7.23 billion to Malaysia’s economy back in 2018, which is around 4.7% of Malaysia’s GDP. This is well, expected, because Malaysia has a lot of petroleum and plastics are a by-product of petroleum. With over 1,300 plastic manufacturers, Malaysia is also one of the largest plastic production industries globally. As a result, plastics are super cheap in Malaysia and everyone uses it without a second thought. 

Because hey, what could go wrong? Well, everything can go wrong. Plastics are famous for its durability and this advantage comes with its cost. On average we only use a plastic bag for about 12 mins, but it stays for hundreds of years in our environment. And plastics don’t actually degrade completely, they turn into microplastics, more on this on a separate video. And what’s scary about microplastics is that they are easily brought up the food chain and they end up back on our plates. According to a journal published in the Environmental Science & Technology, we are consuming more than 70,000 microplastics every year. Microplastics can be found in our tap water and foods especially seafood because many of our mismanaged plastic waste enters the ocean.

We Have To Take Action

Micro plastics

We have to urge us Malaysians to take action quickly! Because we are not the one to bear the major consequences, it is the next generation, our children and grandchildren who will be the one to bear it. And we believe all of us know that plastic won’t go away easily, and the only way to get rid of it in the future is to dump it elsewhere or burn it. And both choices are equally detrimental to the next generation. Plastics in our oceans will kill wildlife thus leaving us with food shortages, and wildlife that survives will most likely contain microplastics in them which is harmful to the human body and will cause severe illness such as cancer. Burning plastic is extremely extremely harmful to the human body, burning plastics will release toxic fumes like mercury, dioxins, and other fancy chemical names. But you get the idea. And what’s worse is that there are many illegal plastic treatment plants in Malaysia. They openly burn plastic, releasing extremely toxic gases to the nearby community.

Plastic burning

So, in order to stop this from happening, the best and easiest way is to stop using plastics whenever you can. We understand that in today’s society, it is extremely difficult to live without single-use plastic as most of our products comes with plastic packaging that we have no choice but to accept. However, we should aim to reduce it as much as possible. And a good way to accomplish this is to always bring along your reusable bags and containers wherever you go. Because if we tackle right at the source and reduce it, we don’t need to worry about treating them anymore. This means more open lands in Malaysia for development, cleaner oceans and higher air quality. So, remember to bring along your reusable bags when you do grocery shopping and use your own containers for take away. 

And to make this experience much more exciting and rewarding, download the free beebag app to earn rewards and participate in games whenever you do so at our partnered merchants. This way, you are not only benefitting the environment, but you are also saving yourself money and supporting caring merchants who really love the environment. So even though Malaysia is not doing extremely well on tackling plastic pollution, we can all make difference because it is never too late to take action. And as we always say, a small change by everyone is a huge change for the country if we all just reduce 2 plastic bags every week, we can reduce around 30 million kg worth of plastic every year. So, don’t ever give up because we can always do better as long as there is tomorrow.

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