‘Indifferent’ Over Waste Disposal- Part 1

Posted on September 26, 2011. Filed under: Waste |

Despite the many awareness programmes held by authorities on waste disposal, many people are still indifferent to this issue.

The following, the first of two features, looks into the lackadaisical attitude of some toward the importance of proper solid waste disposal.

SERDANG, Sept 26 (Bernama) — Garbage has always been an issue at both night- and farmers’ markets, at other open places, and at covered buildings where buyers and sellers convene for the sale of goods, including daily essentials.

But after the trading has ended, there will no more sellers and buyers. Usually, the marketplace becomes deserted. What is left behind are piles and piles of garbage.

There is nothing new about this in Malaysian life, and similar scenarios can be seen elsewhere, too.

Garbage from food and other leftovers discarded by irresponsible visitors and traders can be seen strewn about at recreational spots, such as waterfalls and picnic sites.

This points to the indifference of some members of the society to the importance of proper management of solid waste disposal, according to Prof Madya Dr Mohd Bakri Ishak, a lecturer in Industrial Waste management and Environment Law at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).


Last year, the emergence of leptospirosis and the rise in cases of dengue raised attention to the practice of hygiene and to the cleanliness of some members of the society.

Some remain unperturbed over reports on the prevalence of these diseases.

Does this imply that public concern over the importance of proper solid waste management has gone down to a low level?

Health authorities have pointed out that a lack of cleanliness is a contributing factor in leptospirosis, a disease caused by contact with rat urine.

In the middle of last year, several visitors to recreational sites in the country succumbed to this fatal disease.

It is the same with dengue. Dirty and garbage-strewn surroundings are among the conditions that hasten the breeding of the Aedes mosquito.

Some operators of eateries are indifferent to the proper disposal of food leftovers. Their lackadaisical attitude has invited rats, cockroaches and flies to their premises.

These pests bring diseases, and the patrons of these restaurants risk contracting diseases if they consume food contaminated by the pests.


The indifference shown by some members of the society can be seen as a “not in my backyard” attitude.

Some individuals are only concerned over the cleanliness of their homes and do not care what happens elsewhere.

“As long as the garbage is not at my house, I don’t mind,” say some individuals.

Some even resort to sweeping and dumping their garbage on the property of their neighbours. As long as their house compounds remain clean!

“Even though the housing area that we live in is clean, the dirty environment out there still may hold negative consequences,” Mohd Bakri told Bernama here recently.

Mohd Bakri is concerned over the society’s attitude in leaving to authorities the task of proper waste disposal.

He expressed dismay over some individuals who have a “let the authorities worry about it and do the job” attitude.

Some simply throw the garbage at any spot if there are no garbage bins around, he lamented.

“This should not happen when the nation is making brisk steps to become developed,” he said.


The society’s involvement in recycling programmes is still low – roughly only five percent, compared to other nations.

This reflects a lack of concern over the proper management of garbage disposal.

People tend to mix the various domestic solid wastes into one garbage bin. This has made recycling a difficult process.

Items that can be recycled should be separated from other rubbish, said Mohd Bakri.

While attending a SIRIM-organised conference on waste management in Sarawak recently, he learned that some solid wastes have high water contents.

“I was told (at the conference) that solid waste in our country has much higher water content than that in Germany and other nations in Europe,” he said.

Hence, recyclables need to be dried, and this indirectly hampers the recycling process, he said.

The water content in solid wastes can be transformed into leachate, which has a foul smell, and negatively impacts human health.

(Leachate is any liquid which, in passing through matter, extracts solutes, suspended solids or any other component of the material through which it has passed.)

“In 2006, we are shocked over news that rivers were polluted by leachate,” said Mohd Bakri.


He said that proper garbage disposal is the responsibility of all, and should not be left to the authorities and concessionaires contracted to do the job.

This attitude has to change.

Mohd Bakri attributes the indifference a lack of awareness campaigns.

“It is not because that the campaigns held earlier were not successful. But more such campaigns are needed. Many people do not know that solid wastes can be recycled.

“This is based on my experience when conducting research on electrical and electronic wastes in several towns. Many people called for more awareness campaigns to be carried out.

“I feel it is time for more of such campaigns to be held, in line with the Solid Waste Management and Public Cleanliness Act 2007 (Act 672), which comes into force on Sept 1 this year,” he said.

Under the Act, households are required to separate reyclable items from other garbage before sending them out for disposal.

Mohd Bakri is confident that the Act will be able to raise public awareness of garbage management, as it focuses on separation of garbage right from its source.

It is hoped that with the enforcement of this act, awareness among the public about proper solid waste disposal will improve.



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