Archive for October, 2011

Development: Save our green lungs

Posted on October 28, 2011. Filed under: Environment and Livelihoods |

-NST-

 Ordinary people who want to enjoy   morning walks continue to  suffer as we keep on losing more of our green lungs are lost to development.

Ordinary people who want to enjoy morning walks continue to suffer as we keep on losing more of our green lungs are lost to development.

THE problem with Malaysia is that there seems to be no shared and collective responsibility. Many matters fall squarely on the shoulders of the government, be it local, state or federal.

The large corporations do nothing much except to rake in huge profits and their occasional CSR (corporate social responsibility) projects, are just for photo opportunity and publicity.

Every month, we keep on losing more and more of our green lungs to so-called development. The Melawati Hills is all but gone, Damansara Heights is also going, Bukit Gasing is the next victim and even football fields and playgrounds are not spared.
I am still waiting for that benevolent person to buy land just for people to enjoy the greenery, much like Central Park in New York or the age-old royal family in Munich, Germany that bestowed kilometres of gardens and park to the people of Munich.

Alas, we in Malaysia are not as lucky because those that are able and with means are out to make more profit while the ordinary people who want to enjoy a morning walk continue to suffer.

The profits made by our corporate citizens are getting more and more ridiculous, many now go into the billions. Of course, they will say that they contribute in the form of taxes, but since many employ expensive tax consultants, how much tax do they actually pay?
Ordinary people like me also pay our share of taxes and often without the aid of a tax consultant.

I get agitated and disturbed as we lose more of our green lungs. What next, Forest Research Institute of Malaysia, Lake Gardens? Where will it end? How many luxury apartments does Klang Valley need? How many malls do we still require? How many more exclusive bungalows are needed?

Sometimes I believe that the local authorities make decisions with impunity and without regard to the well-being of the ordinary people who want to enjoy their morning walks among the greens.
I wish corporate citizens and the authorities would work together to give something back to the people, such as buying land and bestowing it to the people. Put a restriction that no form of development is allowed on these lands.

I know I am dreaming. But if it were to come true, what a truly great nation we will be as the well-being of the ordinary people is collectively taken care of by the corporate citizens as well as the authorities.

We should not wait for the government to make the call. Ordinary people will continue to be hurt when they see old trees that provided beauty and shade making way for serviced apartments and bungalows in the name of development and progress.

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Green economy offers a bountiful harvest

Posted on October 26, 2011. Filed under: Environmental Economics |

As a Native American saying goes, we do not inherit the earth
from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.

As a Native American saying goes, we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.

Protecting our ‘natural’ capital can boost our financial capital, argues ZAKRI ABDUL HAMID

PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s keynote address at the second International Greentech and Ecoproducts Exhibition and Conference Malaysia (IGEM 2011) on Sept 8, urging the business community to be more involved in green business, recalls two anecdotes related by Daniel Esty and Andrew Winston in their book Green to Gold.

The first was how Sony Corporation faced a nightmare in the weeks before Christmas 2001. The Dutch government was blocking Sony’s entire European shipment of PlayStation game systems. More than 1.3 million boxes were sitting in a warehouse instead of flying off store shelves. Sony was at risk of missing the critical holiday rush.
A small but legally unacceptable amount of the toxic element cadmium was found in the cables of the game controls. Sony rushed in replacements to swap out the tainted wires. It also began an 18-month search to track down the source of the problem, inspecting over 6,000 factories and resulting in a new supplier management system.

The total cost of this “little” environmental problem: over RM390 million. The lesson learnt: even the best companies can be surprised by environmental issues. The environment is not a fringe issue — it can cost businesses real money.

The second is how proactive action by a company can result in extraordinary return on investment.
In the late 1990s, British Petroleum (BP) committed itself to reducing its carbon dioxide emissions, the main culprit of global warming. After three years of relentlessly “looking for carbon”, BP discovered numerous ways to cut emissions, improve efficiency, and save money. A lot of money.

The initial process changes cost BP about RM60 million but saved the company a whopping RM1.95 billion over those first few years. As of 2007, the savings topped RM6 billion.

Esty and Winston summed up an important principle: smart companies seize competitive advantage through strategic management of environmental challenges.
BP and Sony learned what some companies already knew: the business world and the natural world are inextricably linked.

Our economy and society depend on natural resources. Every product came from something mined or grown. This newspaper was once a tree, the ink these words were printed in began as soybeans. The environment provides “ecosystem services” to our economic system — not financial capital, but natural capital.

And yet, as shown by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a mega-study commissioned by the United Nations a few years ago, 60 per cent of the world’s ecosystem services are being degraded and we are “overdrawing” our natural capital to the detriment of future generations.

In his remarks, the prime minister asked: “How could we, as a global population, continue to develop without damaging our environment, fuelling climate change or overexploiting the natural resources of our planet?”

To stop development altogether is never an option. But any future development has to be sustainable — using resources in ways that meet our needs today without compromising the needs of generations to come.

Or as Najib puts it: “Now is the time for us to shift our development to a more ‘eco-centric’ course” — a trajectory predicated on our understanding and appreciation of the finiteness of our natural resources and the imperative to develop sustainable solutions for our current and future lifestyles.

The world needs to embrace the “green economy”, defined by the UN Environment Programme as an economy that improves human well-being and social equity while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. Simply put, a green economy is characterised by low carbon emissions, highly efficient use of resources and social inclusiveness.

Najib also put on notice his wish “to see Malaysia become a major producer of eco-technology products not just in our region but globally … and that this will in turn translate into an increase in the number of green jobs and green business opportunities”.

To help realise this goal, two new initiatives undertaken by the government are the National Eco-labelling Programme and the National Green Procurement Policy.

Eco-labelling will help ensure that businesses make credible claims about their products and raise awareness of environmentally-friendly products and services among consumers and manufacturers alike. By favouring such products in government and private sector purchasing decisions, green procurement will help green industries grow.

To his great credit, the prime minister has staked a claim to being the most environmentally-friendly prime minister of the six this country has had so far. One of his first acts upon assuming office in 2009 was to establish the Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry, significant with its singular focus on green technologies.

At the 2009 Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen, Najib was one of the few heads of governments who were forthcoming in pledging a 40 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emission intensity of GDP by 2020 against 2005 levels, conditional upon appropriate technology transfer and adequate financing by the advanced countries.

A National Green Technology Policy was put in place in the same year. Recently, he announced plans to launch a Low Carbon Cities Framework and Assessment System to turn towns and cities across Malaysia into eco-friendly townships.

The government is making efforts on many fronts to encourage the private sector to get involved in the green economy. One good example is the Green Technology Financing Scheme introduced last year to assist companies that are users and producers of green technologies.

A total of 97 projects have been awarded Green Certificates with a combined value of more than RM2 billion, indicating a strong interest among the business community. Unfortunately only 21 have received letters of offer for loans from financial institutions. This doesn’t augur well if this country is to embrace the green economy.

More needs to be done to increase public awareness and appreciation of the green economy and eventually a sustainability-led lifestyle. It is time that we seriously consider integrating into our education system the element of “Education for Sustainable Development” from pre-school to university.

After all, as the Native American proverb goes: We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.

The writer is science adviser to the prime minister and former chairman of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice

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Going green with biodegradable products

Posted on October 25, 2011. Filed under: Waste |

-The Star-

Biodegradable food containers are touted as a solution to our throwaway society but it appears that the answer is not that simple.

CONVENTIONAL plastics have been accused of a slew of crimes. They are said to deplete non-renewable resources such as oil and when disposed off, degrade extremely slowly, if at all. When carelessly discarded, they are an eyesore and can choke wildlife. They are also said to take up valuable landfill space.

This has led to a plethora of measures to replace plastics, especially for single-use applications, with other materials such as paper or bioplastics made of plant-based materials, like starch or complex sugars.

The central assumption behind such thinking is that paper or starch-based materials will degrade quickly and leave no trace after a few months or a year or two (common assumptions by people on what biodegradability is all about).

Switch, but carefully: There are alternatives to polystyrene disposables, but not all are independently certified to be biodegradable or compostable.

The move to replace plastics – such as shopping bags, packaging, food containers (clamshells, plates, cups, bowls) and cutlery – is currently focused on areas where they are the most visible. Penang has banned retailers from handing out free plastic bags to shoppers and disallowed food sellers in municipal council-operated hawker centres from using polystyrene clamshells and plates. Selangor is toying with the same idea.

Manufacturers of alternatives to disposable plastic foodware are quick to trumpet the biodegradability of their products. Selangor-based Greatpac, manufacturer of the Jasa Eco (jasa-eco.com) range of disposable tableware that is bio-based (a blend of 70% corn starch and 30% conventional polypropylene, or PP), said its products can be expected to degrade within five years after being landfilled.

“We are confident that 70% of the product will degrade and this is still better than totally no degradation,’’ said senior manager Douglas Tan.

The company also makes a polystyrene clamshell (codenamed JEF2) which contains additives that will make it biodegrade under low or zero oxygen (anaerobic) conditions. It clarified that while JEF2 is not a bio-based product (like its starch-based series), the clamshell can be expected to biodegrade within two to five years in local landfills (based on extrapolated lab results).

The Jasa Eco range of tableware includes biodegradable polystyrene foodware (the yellowish containers) that meets ASTM D5511-11 certification for biodegradability, and some disposable utensils that can claim to be compostable (available only for export at the moment).

Penang-based Return 2 Green (return2green.com.my), which makes clamshell boxes from agricultural waste such as sugarcane bagasse, said its products will “return to nature at 180 days of composting”.

Both companies offer products that need moisture, warmth, oxygen and microbial action to decompose, either partly or totally. This is in contrast to another range of plastic that does not need microbial action to decompose, a phenomenon known as oxodegradability (commonly seen in supermarket shopping bags, such as the ones offered by Carrefour).

Degrees of degradation

However, biodegradability itself is a debatable concept, and in the absence of a qualifying statement, a largely meaningless notion. One would be sadly mistaken if one thinks that putting the used lunchbox or plate into a compost pile would yield great results within weeks, which is what most people expect of a “biodegradable” product.

This plate — made of 70% corn-yam starch and 30% polypropylene — will be compostable if conditions stipulated under the ASTM D6400 are met in a composting facility.

The Great Garbage Project, conducted between 1987 and 1995 by a group of archaeologists from the University of Arizona in the United States, found newspapers which were still readable despite being buried for five years, and even retrieved 40-year-old newspapers from landfills, blowing away the misconception that the landfill is a huge composting facility that will take care of all biodegradable waste.

There are two types of biodegradation: aerobic (in the presence of oxygen) and anaerobic (without oxygen or in very low levels of oxygen). Aerobic degradation gives out water and carbon dioxide, while anaerobic degradation gives out methane, other than carbon dioxide and water. In the hundreds of open dumps found in the country, organic materials get piled up and create anaerobic conditions.

In properly managed sanitary landfills, such as those in North America, the law stipulates that the trash must be kept away, as much as possible, from moisture and sunlight, factors that speed up biodegradation. Hence, scientists now acknowledge that just because a material is organic does not mean that it will decompose as fast as we would like it to.

While it is clear that biodegradation cannot be taken for granted in landfills, Penang is placing its hope that the use of biodegradable foodware will somewhat help slow down the growth of waste. Its executive councillor for the environment, Phee Boon Poh, believes that such items will degrade in landfills, and help with waste management.

Whether a landfill should be managed in such a way as to speed up or retard biodegradability is still an open issue, contends Prof P. Agamuthu of Universiti Malaya’s Institute of Biological Sciences.

The bigger picture of solid waste management is a rather grim one. On a national scale, the current challenge is how to efficiently collect the 20,000 tonnes of waste that is being generated daily.

According to Datuk Dr Nadzri Yahaya, director-general of the National Solid Waste Management Department, there are presently 176 dumpsites, and many more are needed to handle the increasing amount of waste. It is understood that 11 more sanitary landfills will be built under the 10th Malaysia Plan, and five mini incinerators are expected to be running soon.

To Dr Nadzri, using biodegradable foodware is just substituting one throwaway product with another. “What benefit is there with a cornstarch plate replacing a polystyrene plate, when both are thrown out into the bin after use? Promoting throwaways is actually missing the bigger picture,’’ he said.

In countries where waste is incinerated, such as Singapore, biodegradable food containers offer no real benefits over conventional plastic disposables as waste is carted away daily to incinerators.

Disposable polystyrene foodware used and discarded during a festive open house.

Even if one is to accept the premise that biodegradable food containers will degrade anaerobically after a few years, it is doubtful whether this will lead to any real improvements in our landfills. The wet waste portion, consisting chiefly of food waste, contributes to around 45% of the average household waste (by weight), and sometimes up to 60%. This is followed by plastics (24%), paper (7%), metals (6%), glass (3%), while other miscellaneous materials make up the remaining 15%. After the extraction of recyclables, the mix that eventually gets buried in the dump contains nearly 70% food waste.

Even Greatpac acknowledges that no biodegradable food containers can degrade in a matter of weeks in our landfills, though it still argued that its products are better compared to plastics, and their decomposition under local conditions surpasses those found in North America. “Regular products may take more than 500 years to break down because they repel microbes but our products will break down between two to five years, which is still a vast improvement,’’ said Tan.

US-based company Natureworks LLC admitted that its polylactic plastic made of corn-derived sources (brand name Ingeo biopolymer, not sold here) will not biodegrade in American landfills “due to the low oxygen concentration and drop in temperature.”

Competing for food?

Some argue against using bioplastics on the grounds that the products employ food materials. Greatpac’s defence is that its products will not have an impact on the overall supply of food as it uses starch that is unfit for human consumption. “Industrial cornstarch comes from corn parts deemed not to be of high enough quality for human consumption. In that process, there is no waste as everything from the stalk to the leaves are used,” said the company on its website.

Likewise, Natureworks, a major producer of PLA (polylactic acid) plastics, said that the sugar (in the form of dextrose) used in its products is derived from corn grown for non-food applications. “Our production utilises dextrose as the base feedstock in a fermentation process which converts sugar to lactic acid. We use that lactic acid to create a polymer, which is later converted to a variety of packaging and fibre applications.

“When our plant is at capacity, Nature­Works LLC will use less than 0.05% of the available annual global corn crop. Our process does not require corn, but we only need a sugar source. This could include sugar beets, sugar cane, wheat and more. In the future we plan to move to non-food cellulosic feedstocks.”

Olive Green argued that hunger is a social phenomenon linked to poverty, and has nothing to do with crop substitution or land use patterns. “People are hungry because they are too poor to buy food. There is a shortage of purchasing power, not a shortage of food. It is not a question of whether we have enough food or how we deal with them, it is a question of how we can distribute the right food, at the right time, to the right people,” said the company on its website (olivegreen.com.sg).

Dr Theng Lee Chong, a solid waste management specialist, remains sceptical of such claims. “Starch is food, no matter if it is low-grade starch, or high-grade starch. Making food service utensils from these so-called renewable materials is akin to diverting food from the masses. Can we tell a starving African that low-grade starch cannot be eaten? And planting crops for the production of bioplastics would mean that real food crops would have to give way. There is always an opportunity cost to be paid.”

Biodegradable foodware also loses a bit of lustre when they are viewed from a life cycle inventory analysis (LCI) perspective.

The widespread cultivation of corn for plastics is not possible without a significant input of fossil fuel that comes in the form of fuel and electricity used by farm machinery, fertilisers (derived from oil), transport, and water consumption.

“From an LCI perspective, biodegradable plastics do have negative impacts, when you grow tapioca or corn just to produce it. So, the best thing is to avoid plastics in all forms and to use reusable containers,’’ said Agamuthu.

The Singapore National Environment Agency, for instance, specifies the use of reusable tableware when procuring catering services whenever possible, and encourages partners and other public sector agencies to be environmentally friendly in the organisation of events.

More methane

At the moment, the high percentage of food waste in Malaysia ends up producing landfill gas containing approximately 50% to 60% methane (by volume), and most is just vented into the atmosphere without any flaring or gas-capture systems. As methane has a global-warming potential 21 times greater than CO2, this poses a serious environmental problem. According to the national greenhouse gas inventory, landfills are the leading source of methane here, contributing more than half of this noxious emission (53%), followed by palm oil mills (38%). Seen in this light, widespread use of biodegradable foodware will in fact boost methane release.

Looking at some developed countries, a growing trend is to divert untreated organic waste like food waste, away from the landfill, rather than allowing it to ferment inside and produce methane. The European Union decreed in 2008 that untreated organic waste can no longer be landfilled. In these places, the solutions include industrial-scale composting, fermentation in digesters to produce methane for electricity, or waste-to-energy incinerators.

Some parties are already disenchanted with the promises of compostability. Early this month, the US Congress announced that 90% of the Capitol Complex’s non-recyclable solid waste, amounting to 5,385 tonnes per year, would be sent to waste-to-energy facilities soon, after an unsatisfactory experiment with composting in 2009 and 2010. The composting programme was cancelled in January; high cost was a major factor. Apparently, stocking the cafeteria with corn-based utensils and then subsequently transporting the waste to an on-site shredder only saved the amount of carbon emitted by a single car a year, but the price tag came close to RM1.5mil. Polystyrene foodware has now been reintroduced at the cafeteria.

Theng, the national co-ordinator of the Malaysia-Japan intergovernmental collaboration on solid waste management, said that the solution for Malaysia lies in concerted education on waste minimisation and proper recycling, so that more resources can be diverted from landfills in the first place.

In the light of what really happens (or is unlikely to happen) within a landfill, consumers need to be aware of marketing hype. Dr William Rathje, director of the Garbage Project, in his book Rubbish (co-authored with Cullen Murphy) summed up the situation well: “The truth is, however, that the dynamics of a modern landfill are very nearly the opposite of what most people think. Well-designed and managed landfills seem to be far more apt to preserve their contents for posterity than transform them into humus or mulch. They are not vast composters; rather they are vast mummifiers.”

As for Theng, the slew of so-called green products is an indication that unfettered commercialisation can sometimes take over the initially noble cause of creating a better environment. “Sometimes, it is just hype.”

 

PRICE FACTORUSING disposable ware, biodegradable or otherwise, has its advantages, if you ask those who are in the catering industry.

“I need to deploy much more manpower if the function has to use reusable plates, cups and cutlery. It is usual for guests to leave them all over the place, and the caterer will also have to absorb some breakages along the way,’’ said Norsyaliza Mohamad, assistant manager of Arena Events & Services.

Another operator said that manpower requirements can vary by up to 40% at a large function when reusable plates and cutlery are used. “And it is not enough to bring just 1,000 plates when you are catering for 1,000. You need to bring at least 2,000 plates as people are known to leave half-empty plates all over, and will not hesitate to grab a fresh plate. Using disposables is much easier as they are light and require no washing or collection,’’ said a cook from Creative Catering.

When Sariya Yatim, owner of Dapur Emas Catering, offered to use tableware made of tapioca, her customers were not interested as they did not want to pay for the price difference compared to foam plates. “But generally, most of my clients do not request for disposable tableware as the perception is that the event will not appear classy if disposable utensils are used,’’ she said.

A polystyrene clamshell can be as cheap as 7.5 sen each, or even less for larger orders, while a biodegradable option easily costs four times as much.

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Malaysia Should Focus On Energy Efficiency Sector, Says Camco MD

Posted on October 19, 2011. Filed under: Energy |

Bernama — Malaysia, as a major producer of palm oil in the world, should focus on the energy efficiency sector as it has huge potential, said Camco Southeast Asia managing director, Kent Carter.

He said there is great potential for the development of Renewable Energy (RE) in Malaysia because there is plentiful supply of feedstock for RE projects.

“There are also many professional developers who can contribute to the RE development.

“It is estimated that the RE which comes from biomass and other energy efficiency projects, can contribute US$139 billion from 2010-2030.

“Still, by 2020, it can contribute US$28 billion or almost US$3 billion annually,” he added.

Carter was speaking at the Low Carbon Business Seminar organised by the British High Commission here today.

He said the most viable RE types that can be developed by the sector are hydropower, solid biomass and biogas.

For biomass projects he said, it can contribute energy of between seven to 25 MW from direct combustion and for pelletising and bio organic fertiliser.

“It is advantageous for Malaysia to seize the opportunities because there are large scale plantations with direct control over the feedstock and its often a true waste product,” he added.

Camco is a regional emissions-to-energy developer with its regional headquarters in Kuala Lumpur and with offices in Hanoi and Jakarta.

–BERNAMA

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Going green and clean

Posted on October 19, 2011. Filed under: Waste |

-The Star-
TO protect the environment for our future generations, various organisations have made a lot of effort to go green. This article highlights the green projects of three non-governmental organisations:

Waterfall Survivors

Waterfall Survivors is a social group founded on Facebook and now managed by Waterfall Explorers Sdn Bhd. The Facebook group was created on July 12, 2008 by Joe Yap. To date, Waterfall Survivors has left footprints at over 90 waterfalls in Malaysia after more than 200 trips.

Save our Waterfalls campaign is an initiative to protect and clean up waterfalls in Peninsular Malaysia.

Waterfall Survivors organises regular waterfall exploration trips, either as a daytrip or an overnight excursion. Its member count reached the 1,000th mark on Jan 3, 2009, barely five months after its inception. As at Oct 19, 2010 the count showed over 6,000 members.

Save Our Waterfalls (SOW) Campaign

Save Our Waterfalls campaign is an initiative to protect and clean up waterfalls in Peninsular Malaysia. The campaign is organised by Waterfall Survivors to raise public awareness about the availability of waterfalls in Malaysia.

This serves two purposes – to highlight new waterfalls for nature lovers to visit and to emphasise the need for greater civic awareness to keep our waterfalls pristine and litter-free. The campaign is also intended to promote tourism in Malaysia, especially eco-tourism and create new opportunities for the local communities.

The Save Our Waterfalls campaign also provides a platform for businesses and corporations to carry out Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects.

Lastly, the campaign also hopes to help ease the maintenance burdens of park managements and local municipalities by engaging members of the public to help in cleaning-up activities while advocating the minimisation of waste generated by waterfall visitors.

The campaign objectives are to preserve our natural heritage for future generations; to give back to the environment and the community via clean up and awareness programmes and to instil civic consciousness among Malaysians.

Waterfall Survivors organises regular waterfall exploration trips.

Batu Ferringhi Beach Cleaning Campaign

Last April, AEON Co (M) Bhd was involved in a beach-cleaning project at Batu Ferringhi Beach, Penang organised by the Penang State Government where it collected 50kg of discarded waste along the beach.

Pantai Remis, Jeram Beach Clean-Up Project

The beach clean-up project took place on Oct 30 last year at a popular destination for family outings and picnickers, Pantai Remis in Jeram, a coastal town in Kuala Selangor. Through this campaign, AEON hoped that the local residents and, especially picnickers, would learn to appreciate this wonderful gift from Mother Nature, and take the responsibility of maintaining the cleanliness of Pantai Remis and its surroundings.

The educational and fun-filled day was organised by the Centre North Region 2 AEON Outlets – AEON Bukit Tinggi Shopping Centre; JUSCO Bandar Baru Klang Shopping Centre; JUSCO Bandar Utama;, JUSCO Bandar Sunway and Pasar Raya MaxValu Kota Kemuning.

As part of the long-term commitment to preserve the cleanliness of Pantai Remis, AEON also handed over 10 rubbish bins and three recycling bins to the Majlis Daerah Kuala Selangor. These recycling bins would be placed at the picnic and recreational areas along the beach.

The Body Shop

On the third weekend of September each year, gatherings of hundreds of thousands of people who want to make a difference take place around the world.

The annual International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) is one of the largest volunteer events for the marine and shoreline environments in the world and volunteers will descend on beaches, lakes and streams all over the planet to pick up trash and debris.

As country coordinator for The Ocean Conservancy in the United States, The Body Shop in Peninsular Malaysia has been organising and sponsoring the Annual Beach Cleanup in conjunction with the International Coastal Clean-up on an annual basis since 1992. Since then, there has been a tremendous increase in volunteer support and participation in this initiative.

To date, there are over 3,000 volunteers with an increase in youth participation – a strong indication of more young people subscribing to this world’s largest volunteer activity and being conscious about the environment.

For over two decades, the ICC is not just about picking up trash and debris, but volunteers must also collect information about the items they find. The data collected will be submitted to The Ocean Conservancy for analysis.

Data collected includes figures from 1986 to the most recent clean-up. It provides an insight into the causes and sources of marine debris and serves as a means to educate the public on prevention methods and solutions.

In Malaysia, over 50% of total debris found came from shoreline and recreational activities like picnics, festivals, sporting events and beach outings. Litter was also washed from streets, parking lots and storm drains.

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Penang to host pilot E-waste project

Posted on October 19, 2011. Filed under: Waste |

-The Sun-

GEORGE TOWN (Oct 18, 2011): Electrical and electronic waste experts from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) are currently working out a suitable E-waste collection system for the public in Penang.

Among the methods being considered by the experts, commissioned by the Department of Environment (DOE), is the drop-off-point system, where people can discard their electrical or electronic products at a designated spot.

Other options being looked into include designating a building to house the collection, sticking to the current municipal waste collection or a hybrid of all three.

Penang E-waste Project team leader Hideki Wada told theSun that the pilot project, expected to be implemented in Penang in June 2012, would establish a systematic and financially sustainable E-waste collection system suitable for Penangites.

“We want this (E-waste collection system) to be sustainable even after we have left,” he said.

The DOE will be the implementing agency with the cooperation of the Penang Island Municipal Council.

The E-waste collection system implemented in Penang is expected to be expanded throughout the country if successful.

The DOE website currently already lists six E-waste collection centres on the island and 29 on the mainland.

The public can drop off their unwanted mobile phones, computers and televisions at these centres for recovery of precious but toxic materials inside the devices.

Hideki said the team along with DOE and MPPP officials would also be examining the legal and regulatory aspect of E-waste collection for the country.

“We will also be looking at (formulating) new regulations or legislation so that the collection system can be carried out properly,” he said.

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More groups call for sustainable development in Penang

Posted on October 18, 2011. Filed under: Environment and Livelihoods |

— Aliran.com–

A newly formed loose network of citizens groups, Penang Citizens’ Awareness Chant, is calling for proper planning and sustainable development to be upheld in the state.

Congestion along Penang Road – Photo courtesy of jctan/Penang Watch

Private citizens and representatives from the following groups and NGOs – Penang Heritage Trust (PHT), Pykett Westland KhawSimBee Residents Group (PRG), Tanjong Bungah Residents Association (TBRA), Consumers Association Penang (CAP), Savoy Gardens Residents Group (SGRG), Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam( PEKA), Penang Forum and Green Voters 2.0 Penang – came together for a first discussion on Wednesday, 12 October 2011.

The Penang Citizens’ Awareness Chant group is a coming together of private citizens, NGOs and interested parties who wish to engage the press and media by issuing appeals to the authorities to take appropriate actions to safeguard Penang’s fragile heritage & natural environment.

We have been compelled to act by the seemingly lack of action on the part of authorities against the rampant over development of Penang and the negligence that is allowed to take place. It is time for the authorities to be more vigilant to protect the quality of life for all Penangites and to ensure that our beloved natural environment & heritage is not destroyed.

The Penang Citizens’ Awareness Chant Group has compiled this list, which we are releasing… All items listed below need immediate attention from the authorities. We feel the authorities are duty-bound to act, within their responsibility and we will continue to ‘chant’ this list until action is taken.

Of most urgent concern is the ongoing:

1. Kek Lok Si car park development, crematorium and columbarium. Pollution of the Ayer Itam Dam from crematorium fall out, and the displacement of Savoy Garden residents. We question how development on this scale can be allowed. This clearing has direct impact on one of our main waterways and on the local natural environment.

2. Pykett Avenue demolition and consequences of overdevelopment in this neighbourhood. The issue of the illegal demolition has not been resolved satisfactorily. We question the illegal demolition that is rampant with no consequences.

3. Unesco WHS demolition of buildings within the zones is still taking place, as well as rampant illegal renovations. We question the lack of enforcement by MPPP on demolitions, illegal renovations and swiftlet farming – which is tantamount to having a chicken coup or chicken farm as your neighbour. The sound of jack hammers ring through George Town at weekends and public holidays. We question why MPPP lacks the ability to investigate and question these renovations. The building codes are clear.

4. sPICE . We question the reasons behind the sale of the 24-acre Pisa complex to S P Setia and request full transparency in this matter.

5. Development density increased to 87 units per acre based on allowable plot ratio of 2.8. We question the rational behind this when there is still no plan for improved infrastructure and traffic management.

6. Penang Local Plan has still not been released for public scrutiny. Where is it?

7. Penang Hill Development. We wish to see transparency with regards to the Crag Hotel Development, the designs planned for the Upper and Lower Stations, and the saga of the now defunct car park development at the Lower Hill Railway station. The Penang Hill Special Area Plan should be released to the public.

8. Penang Turf Club sale of land to Berjaya Land Bhd’s subsidary. To a total of 57 acres located at the Penang Turf Club vicinity. We question the consequences of this development with the increased density of 87 units per acre = 4959. We question the social impact on the current community, infrastructure and traffic in the area.

9. Swiftlet farming in the Unesco WHS and residential areas. The authorities must adopt the 1Garis Panduan and enforce the regulations in this guideline. The authorities must implement the swiftlet farm removal plan from the Unesco WHS in line with the DPM’s statement (2 September 2010) that swiftlet farms would be prohibited and removed form the Unesco WHS within three years. Threats include but not limited to damage to historical building structures and threat to public health. Swiftlet farming is tantamount to having a chicken coup or a chicken farm as your neighbour.

10. George Town Unesco WHS. There is an urgency to get the SAP adopted and approved.

11. Penang Traffic Plan . There is a need for the overall traffic plan to be adopted and approved. Development cannot be allowed to go on without the traffic plan in place.

12. Development audit. An audit of all development projects on Penang island. This is all about accountability. Is there sense in all these development projects if returns are insignificant. Impact on the natural environment around large developments is compromised and if they fail, then there is knock-on effect in home costs, degradation of neighbourhoods etc.

13. Over-development on our northern beaches . There is inadequate infrastructure to support such growth. We question this.

14. Impact of reclamation. Examples are the Gurney mudflats and the area around Queensbay. The ‘growth’ of mudflats in these areas compromise the whole natural and man-made drainage infrastructure of Penang Island. We question the lack of environmental impact reports made public on this issue.

15. The Rifle Club in the Botanical Gardens. The expansion of this club within the Botanic Garden area is questionable and it is no longer appropriate in an area so beloved by the public of Penang.

16. PDC demolition of shophouses at Magazine Road and Sia Boey, and the Prangin market building and parking lot on the Prangin Canal. We ask for transparency and request all plans for this site, which marks the entrance to our Unesco WHS, to be publicly released. We question the legitimacy of PDC to demolish this area of historically significant shop-houses right on the edge of the WHS.

17. ‘Dead End’ traffic and road system on the Northern beaches. We demand accountability on this project and question why this has been abandoned and now totally defunct.

18. Significant historic buildings and sites in danger:

18.1 Tenby School Site and SP Setia- Burma Lane. Planned development ‘V’ Residence. We request transparency in this matter. Plans and traffic and infrastructure reports should be released to the public.

18.2 457 Burma Road-’Safari’ – also planned for development. We request transparency on this location.
18.3 The Ayer Hitam Estate – earmarked for redevelopment?

The Penang Taxpayers Chant Group will meet at regular intervals in order to specifically engage the press on specific topics within this list. Members of the public and representatives of NGOs will take the time to inform the press on these issues and their consequences. We ask all concerned citizens and NGOs to join us as one voice against the lack of enforcement and engagement shown by the authorities. We wish to compel the State and MPPP to act and with the support of all concerned citizens we can make a change and preserve Penang for our future generations.

Citizens Awareness Chant Group

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Lynas: No radioactive ores being shipped to M’sia

Posted on October 14, 2011. Filed under: Pollution |

–Free Malaysia Today–

The information is factually wrong, says the company.

PETALING JAYA: Lynas Corporation Ltd today denied that radioactive ores from Mount Weld, Australia, will be shipped to Malaysia by the end of this month.

Yesterday, Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh said that at a monthly meeting between the Kuantan Port Authority and the land occupants of the Gebeng area (where the Lynas plant is located), it was revealed that the raw material will be shipped to Kuantan by month-end.

But Lynas said that the claim was wrong.

“The claim that Lynas will begin shipments of rare earth concentrates from Mount Weld to Kuantan by month’s end is factually wrong,” the company said in a statement.

Lynas also said the raw materials from Mount Weld were “non-toxic, non-hazardous and non-radioactive”.

It cited a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which stated that the plant was safe and had complied with international standards.

The IAEA report released in June found that there was no danger of radioactive risk. However, it also stated that Lynas has to meet 11 recommendations before further licences can be granted.

Lynas said that it will implement the IAEA’s recommendations in full in compliance with its duty on disclosure to the public.

“Lynas clearly understands its obligation not to import concentrates into Malaysia until a pre-operating licence is granted,” it said.

Meanwhile, Lynas executive chairman Nicholas Curtis took a swipe at Fuziah for misleading the public.

Although not naming her specifically, he said: “These allegations are part of a campaign to deliberately distort the facts about Lynas. They create unnecessary fear in the local community for political purposes.”

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Lynas to ship rare earth to Kuantan by end of October

Posted on October 13, 2011. Filed under: Pollution |

-Malaysiakini.com-

Despite the unsettled controversy surrounding the safety of the rare earth ore, the Lynas Advanced Material Plant (Lamp) is expected to begin shipping the material by the end of this month.

azlanKuantan PKR parliamentarian Fuziah Salleh said the matter was discussed during the Health, Safety and Environment Committee meeting with Kuantan Port Authorities, Kuantan Port Consortium and the Land Occupants of Kuantan Port area last week.

The shipping of the ore will commence although Lynas has yet to satisfy the 11 recommendations put forth by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) panel.

IAEA insisted that the recommendations must be satisfied before an operational licence is issued to the company by the Malaysian government.

This also contradicts the government’s previous assurance that “Lynas will only be given the nod to operate once it fulfills all the recommendations”.

Among the key recommendations Lynas needs to fulfill pertain to the submission of documents on a permanent waste disposal plan, a plant decommissioning plan and the intensification of communication with affected parties to demonstrate how it will ensure the radiological safety of the public and the environment.

Referring to report in the Star, Fuziah, quoting the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB), said that the local regulatory body had received the long-term waste management plan from
Lynas but has yet to analyse it.

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Malaysia proposes body to anchor global environment efforts

Posted on October 12, 2011. Filed under: Environmental Policy |

–BERNAMA–

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has proposed to the United Nations to create a World Environment Organisation WEA), to anchor global efforts for the environment.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the proposed body should be consultative and facilitative to assist countries to meet the commitments derived from mutual agreements.

He said only with a major overhaul of the governance system would the world be able to address the challenges of environmental sustainability.

“It has become virtually impossible for developing countries to participate meaningfully. The only countries that cope with the system are the richest countries of the world while the developing nations are becoming disenfranchised.

“A new body like the WEA can help facilitate the participation of developing countries in a more realistic and meaningful way,” he said at the First Preparatory Meeting of the World Congress on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability here.

Najib’s speech was read out by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz.

The prime minister said that over the years, the international community had adopted hundreds of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAS), all with their own secretariats and administration.

Between 1992 to 2007, the 18 major MEAs alone convened some 540 meetings which produced over 5,000 decisions that countries were supposed to act upon through national efforts, he added.

Najib said the World Congress on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability in Brazil on June 4 to 6, next year, would provide a timely opportunity to examine contemporary norms and principles of justice, governance and law in the area of environmental sustainability and the inherent linkages among them. BERNAMA

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