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Kuala Lumpur, 10th May 2023 — The recent announcement by Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Minister Nik Nazmi regarding the government’s plan to eliminate plastic bag usage across all business sectors by 2025 is a major step towards addressing the issue of plastic pollution in Malaysia. This move confirms the government’s commitment to reducing plastic waste and promoting sustainable practices.
As per the minister’s statement, the “No Plastic Bags” campaign has been implemented in stages, starting with stationary retail outlets like supermarkets and certain local shops. The current ban only applies to physical establishments like supermarkets, mini-markets, and sundry shops, but the government plans to extend it to cover roadside vendors in the future. State governments and local authorities also have the flexibility to decide on the implementation of the ban, based on their individual needs.
As an organization that has been working towards addressing plastic pollution and adopting of sustainable culture at the grassroots level, EcoKnights fully supports the government’s efforts in combating single-use plastic. We believe that this ban will not only reduce plastic waste but also encourage consumers to adopt more sustainable habits. We urge the government to continue raising awareness and educating the public on the importance of reducing plastic use and promoting eco-friendly alternatives.
However, while the government has introduced several policies and incentives to combat plastic pollution, the execution of these plans remains a key challenge. Malaysia generated 525,000 tonnes of plastic waste in 2019, ranking it the eighth-worst country in the world for plastic waste. Furthermore, a report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) shows that Malaysia used 148,000 metric tonnes of plastic for food packaging alone in 2020.
Therefore, the public needs to know how the government plans to execute the implementation of the ban in the retail industry, which has 150,482 establishments operating in Malaysia as per the Department of Statistics. EcoKnights urges the government to ensure the effective execution of this plan and work towards making Malaysia a more sustainable and eco-friendly nation.
The Malaysian government launched the “Sayangi Malaysiaku: Malaysia Bersih” campaign in 2018, which aimed to reduce single-use plastics by 50% by 2020. However, the target was not achieved, leading to a new target of zero single-use plastics by 2030 through the Roadmap Towards Zero Single-Use Plastics 2018-2030. Despite continuous campaigns, it is apparent that we are still trailing behind.
As an organization, EcoKnights holds a steadfast position on this matter, which aligns with other local non-governmental organizations (NGOs). We want a better future for Malaysia with improved plastic waste management and production. It is crucial for the ministries to be transparent not only about the execution but also about how the campaign’s impact can be measured quantitatively and qualitatively.
A recent survey by global market research firm Ipsos found that 81% of Malaysians are concerned about plastic waste and want the government to take stronger action to address the issue. This survey underscores the importance of the government’s actions and highlights the need for transparency in planning and execution from top to bottom. EcoKnights urges the government to continue to take a stronger stance and implement more effective measures to reduce plastic waste in Malaysia.
“More importantly than just a ban, we highly encourage the government to ensure that utmost transparency is in place to track the campaign and its impacts on the environment. We have heard of many campaigns launched in the past, and at the end of the day, it only focuses on charging consumers who still want to use disposable plastic bags,” said Amlir Ayat, Vice President of EcoKnights.
EcoKnights acknowledges that the government’s announcement will lead to a more systematic and organized approach to raising awareness and fostering community motivation and engagement in reducing plastic usage through education starting from local establishments to guarantee long-term people’s commitment and active participation. However, it is crucial for the government to involve local NGOs and community-based organizations (CBOs) and relevant government and business sectors in this campaign to ensure their full participation and contribution towards a sustainable future. With a collective effort from all stakeholders, we can achieve a significant reduction in single-use plastics and create a cleaner, healthier environment for all.
Written by: Shahirah Anuar
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