KUCHING: The World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) Malaysia, in a statement on Monday (Sept 21), proposed an effective solution to mitigate plastic pollution in Malaysia.

According to a study commissioned by WWF in 2019, Malaysia had the highest annual per capita plastic use, at 16.78 kg per person compared to China, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

In terms of plastic waste, Malaysia ranked the second highest in overall generated waste.

Adrian Choo, lead for the Sustainable Markets Programme in WWF-Malaysia, stated that in low- and middle-income countries that often face budget shortfalls in waste management, the root cause of plastic waste leakage into the environment was the lack of sound waste management systems.

“This includes inadequate waste facilities due to constraints in funding and manpower as well as a highly unregulated recycling market.”

Moreover, to address the need for a proper plastic waste management system, WWF released a report entitled ‘Study on EPR Scheme Assessment for Packaging Waste in Malaysia’.

In the report, WWF identifies the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme as a critical and effective policy tool in holding manufacturers accountable for the end-of-life impacts of their plastic products and packaging.

“EPR as a policy instrument also encourages adoption of holistic eco-design among the business sector.

“The report shows that Malaysia has sufficient infrastructure to process large quantities of recycled waste materials.

“However, instead of processing and recycling waste produced in the country, a majority of the recyclers and aggregators import recyclables.

“This is attributed to the absence of systematic separation and recycling of the low-value recyclables which include multilayer packaging and mixed plastics.

“As a result, and depending on the locally prevailing collection and disposal system, potential recycled materials end up in sanitary landfills and dumpsites, or are littered in the environment, eventually leaking into the ocean,” the report said.

Not only that, the report also proposed a customised EPR scheme towards addressing Malaysia’s plastic waste pollution.

“The first step is having a mandatory scheme to provide a financial basis for large-scale systematic collection, sorting and recycling of packaging materials.

“For this customised EPR scheme to work, the report emphasises that the responsibility of implementing the scheme to be assumed by a non-profit Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO) as the system operator, with strict monitoring and control systems carried out by the government.

“There is nothing unusual about the EPR scheme. Governments of several low and middle-income countries have started to introduce or draft regulations on EPR.

“Companies and business associations have also launched voluntary commitments and initiatives based on EPR schemes to accelerate the transition to sustainable waste management and circular economy.”

However, Choo opined that effective EPR scheme must be designed and tailored to the existing waste management system and flow of recyclable materials.

“The EPR scheme can also be built upon Malaysia’s Roadmap towards Zero Single-Use Plastics 2018-2030 to reduce plastic consumption and waste.

“The Ministry of Environment and Water (KASA) is leading various initiatives with stakeholders along the plastic value chain to shape a circular plastics economy.

“One of the steps taken by the ministry is by building a national plastics collaboration network which is regarded as one of the key platforms to advance the implementation of an EPR scheme.”

Furthermore, the findings in the report by WWF also proposed next steps to support the achievement of the Roadmap towards Zero Single-Use Plastics, as well as a Circular Economy Roadmap for plastics.

“Ultimately, we need an EPR legal framework that outlines clear objectives, responsibilities, enforcement mechanisms, and a timeline for implementation.

“EPR complements other environmental regulations such as shifting to a circular economy, promoting eco-design, and transitioning to a more resource-efficient economy,” said Choo.

The full published report can be found at www.wwf.org.my