Charging for plastic bags, banning Styrofoam containers, car-free days in the CBD and community-led recycling schemes are among the measures which have helped the Malaysian state of Penang become a leader in environmentally sustainable transformations.
About 70 people heard visiting Malaysian politician Boon Poh Phee explain the journey Penang had been through as it aims to become a leader in sustainability when he spoke at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts at the University of Waikato on Thursday night.
Separating waste at the source
He says Penang’s Solid Waste Management Policy is the backbone of the transformation and includes strategies such as separating waste at the source - an idea Mr Phee says he learned from New Zealand’s street-side recycling – and diverting waste from landfill.
Food waste, which makes up most household waste, is turned into fertiliser while a series of education and awareness campaigns - which include home visits - has seen a decrease in total waste.
Penang aims to see a fall in waste generated per-person-per-day from about 1kg currently to 0.58 kg by 2020 and recycling rates climb from about 30% currently to 59% in 2020.
The development of community gardens has seen further inroads made into lessening waste going to landfill and has also strengthened community ties, he says.
Education is key to success
Penang has also introduced a series of green awards for schools and businesses and Mr Phee says education has been the key to the project’s success.
“Education is the basic foundation in our environmental awareness.”
Following awareness and education campaigns, there has been an attitude change among communities but these would also be followed up by warnings and enforcement measures, he says.
Mr Phee says while the ongoing plan had been supported by most people there was still some opposition.
“But it is better that we have tried than not to have tried at all”.