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How much waste do we accumulate (pandemic not helping)

This is an idealistic post. but also a topic that bothers me enough to write about it.

Back then in my mid-20s after I got married, and had a household of my own, albeit it being only me and hubs, I started to become mindful of the amount of household waste we threw out and the thought of every home accumulating this much waste horrified me. It must have only hit me then as I started to observe it hands on the amount of trash from our home use we had to threw out, cooking items, hygiene products, food wrappers, glass jars, plastics, paper trash, batteries, etc. I could hardly stand it. On a side note, now thinking back to when I was a kid, it must have been that my mum and dad sheltered me from this harsh fact due to they threw out the house hold trash instead of me mostly (I’m just kidding).

Anyway, I started separating out trash, paper, glass, plastic, aluminum from our house, and packed them into separate bags labelled with marker pens, and hoped that the garbage collectors saw it and ‘handled’ it back to recycling centers. Back then in 2013 -2014, the government had a recycling campaign which required the public to separate the trash, and I was fully supporting it. Other times, I would bring our trash to Old Jusco (actual name Jusco Ayer Keroh but I still call it old Jusco because back then in ancient melaka when Rebecca was young-er, there was only One (1, satu) Jusco in Melaka), and throw it into their 3 recycling bins with the 3 separate colours for aluminum, plastic, paper. It was actually placed at the back near the motorcycle parking area, and I recall Jusco workers who were on break, smoking away at the back alley would look at me and hubby one kind, for throwing our separated waste into their not so well maintained recycling bins. They must have thought, wow, people actually recycle in Melaka? Now, whether Jusco effectively recycle our items or yours ( cheers to you if are a recycler) is questionable as I’ve seen the conditions of these bins, in fact if you go around Melaka’s new Aeon Jusco, these bins are filled with regular trash because obviously PEEH PAL cannot read the words on the bin and assume its just a regular rubbish bin. ISH.

What we do applaud Jusco for and Tesco as well, is that they do also work with recycling companies (check out Meriahtek Melaka) to collect electronic waste or E-waste from the public such as computers, laptops, mobile phones etc for recycling, and the condition of these collection bins from what I observe are still maintain in fairly decent condition.

Anyway, back to the main title of the blog. The excessive waste situation is much worse now with the pandemic, as we now add to our collection of daily trash our disposable face mask (+1 trash count from most people ) and with movement control order not allowing dining in, the amount of packed food and disposable food packing materials and plastic drinks also increase dramatically, especially with food delivery services on the rise (Food Panda, GrabFood etc). Previously, it was already bad enough that we use single use plastic daily, common culprits being ice cream spoons (BaskinRobs, LaoLao), plastic straws, plastic bags , even the chili/tomato sauce little plastic holders at fast food or chicken rice restaurants. So. much. trash.

Here’s some tips, on how to reduce the usage of plastic and slow down the waste accumulation on earth ( hello microplastics in the ocean).

1. Reuse the reusable-worthy items

My collection of plastic spoons / cutleries that we reused, guess the brand if you can. Even the ice -cream sticks we reused as craft for the kids.

Baskin Robbin’s and the frozen yoghurt Lao Lao spoons are actually quite good, dont toss it after you use them, wrapped them up in a tissue paper and bring them home, and wash and reuse it. It sounds really asian, but no shame in doing so. For families with kids, I encourage to reuse also the milk formula scoops, in my home I re-use it to portion out my milo , oats etc. Other items like plastic containers, food packing plastic, jam glass jars etc can be wash and re-used , in this category I observe most Asians already doing this, and kudos to you reading this who also practice this.

2. Reduce waste
Also inter-related to point 1, using old shampoo bottles and buying refill packs instead also reduce the plastic waste. Of course the refill pack is also a waste but mostly it has less volume that the plastic /glass bottles itself. Other things you can do is also, instead of using a straw, why not just go without one if you are dining in and you have hands and fingers to bring your cup to your mouth. Chili sauce can be dispensed directly to your burger box cover instead of its own plastic container. If you don’t use the piece of tissue they give you, take it away with you for use in the car or in your bag, if you leave it back on the table they will mostly throw it away. Want to pack food from restaurant? If possible bring your own food container or tiffin carrier to the shops for the food, especially for chap fan what we call economy rice restaurants. Ice cream sticks? Can be used for children’s craft or to build a structure like a phone holder or stationary organizer (I do this as a side hobby, more of that in another post).

3. Recycling
From what I observe the most sought after recycling materials are aluminum and cardboard paper. I have once talked to a lady who was collecting cardboard at the Melaka Hutan Rekreasi entrance, she was going around the waste bins looking for cardboard, she told me she will collect and bring to the companies who would buy it from her and how they pay is by weight of the cardboard/ paper, and it wasn’t much. I think if you look around Melaka you will observe them also, usually older folks who go around carrying tied up cardboard on their backs. I also saw an old guy near the place I worked going house to house garbage bins looking for aluminum cans/ tins. Confession, at one point I actually brought out the aluminum and paper wastes from our home and specifically dropped it around that area on one of the housing ‘trash’ sites which later was cordoned off by the government. Every day I would walk past it and the aluminum and paper waste would be gone vs the other non-reusable trash wouold remain, and I felt a tinge of happy, although it could have been anyone else who took it).

4. Be more vocal about recycling and reducing waste
One point to make on this, most companies would only pay attention to being more green only when it is profitable to do so, meaning if customer’s expectations are for companies to be more responsible in their plastic waste production, only will there be initiatives and corporate social responsibility programes to reduce the usage of these type of waste or to encourage recycling. One example was a few years back plastic straws were under high attention due to being the most frequently uses single use plastic, and remember the image of the turtle with the straw coming out of his nose? After that, companies took attention to use paper straws instead (though still serving their lattes in disposable plastic cups heh). That time also was the metal or glass straws reusable became a hit (people were giving out metal straws as wedding presents instead of key chains or the old fruitcakes). Make your stand on this topic heard, and be supportive of companies who do promote environmental waste reduction / do not use non recyclable items.

Last thoughts

If more of us do a little extra bit to reduce waste, hopefully the cumulative effort does make a dent in having a healthier cleaner place for future generations. At least in this area, we can have some influence in. Notice how society have progressed in Sweden and some parts of Japan, where recycling and waste reduction is a normal part of every home. In 2019 I wrote to the then government representatives for energy and environment (under YeoBY’s department) asking if the previous household waste recycling program in 2014 will return or any new proposals on this topic, and the answer I got back (yes they replied me) was that it was not the key focus of the current government at that time. Even so, at the very least for the person from their team who was reading my email, their impression would be they knew some cared enough to check up on them on this topic.

So, till the next read, good night.

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