‘Learned folk top the waste list’

Posted on July 4, 2010. Filed under: Waste |

– NewStraitsTimes-  BANGI: The higher their level of education, the more rubbish people throw.

This was the surprising finding of a recent study on the waste disposal habits of Malaysians.

Six out of 10 households, which had occupants educated up to tertiary level, threw out an average of 500g of waste per person a day — 120g more than those with no or low levels of education.
Households which made an effort to reduce and recycle waste were also found to throw more than those which did not.

“It’s interesting and somewhat ironic,” said researcher Dr Kohei Watanabe, who studied the waste composition of some 300 households in Selangor.

One possible explanation, he said, was that while educated people tend to be more aware of the need to recycle and conserve, they also “earned more”.
“Naturally, they consumed more and had more waste to start off with. On the other hand, those less educated might not have much to throw out or recycle in the first place.”

Watanabe, a research fellow at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia under the Asian Public Intellectuals Fellowships programme, led the survey.

To know exactly what could be reduced, reused and recycled — in that order — researchers first set out to examine what was in household rubbish.
For sampling, they collected 1,000kg of rubbish from 160 terraced houses and bungalows, and 122 units of low-cost flats in the township. The rubbish was then weighed and sorted into 120 categories to determine each material’s reusability.

The process was painstaking, but necessary for proper waste management, said Watanabe, who specialises in waste composition analysis and environmental engineering.

The survey also found that the more occupants there were in a household, the less waste per person was generated.

For example, a household of three people produced close to 700g of waste per person a day, while a household with double the number of occupants generated 400g. This could be attributed to household-based consumption, said Watanabe.

“When people subscribe to newspapers, they do it by household, not by person. Also, bigger households tend to buy things in bulk, and that comes with less packaging.

“Maybe, if you have a bigger family, you make better use of resources, too, like food, so there’s less wastage.”

The study also identified flat dwellers as the “least polluting”. They threw out about 300g of rubbish per person a day, much less than those in terrace houses, who threw out 470g, and bungalows 550g.

Watanabe, who presented his findings at the university recently, also compared them with similar studies he had done in Cambridge, England, and Neyagawa in Osaka, Japan.

One of the more interesting comparisons was that while Malaysians produced much less waste than the other two cities — about half of that in Cambridge and two-thirds of Neyagawa’s — the amount of food disposed of by Malaysians was comparable to theirs. They also threw out about the same amount of plastic as the two cities.

Based on the study, Watanabe concluded that Malaysia’s 3R potential was significant.

Unused food and packaging can be further reduced, clothing reused, refillable bottles reintroduced, and metal and plastic recycled. Malaysians are recycling less than a third of what they could.

Only 6.5 per cent of household waste was recycled, out of a possible 23 per cent.

Read more: ‘Learned folk top the waste list’ http://www.nst.com.my/nst/articles/25wata/Article/#ixzz0sjG2Tvp2
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