We come, we stay, we waste. According to an article published by The Star in 2019, Malaysians produce 38,000 tonnes of waste a day. I’ll admit that I’m not good with numbers, but when it’s a five-figure number attached to the word “tonnes”, then yes, I know it’s a staggering amount. Over the years, we’ve been encouraging each other to reduce, reuse and recycle the best we can. By now, we know the few large categories if recyclable material, but what about the details, especially when it comes to plastic? We have some plastic divisions here, all kept simple and straightforward, and a few other tips and places you can go to take your recycling to the next step!
Is all plastic recyclable?
By separating waste and putting things into recycle bins, it’s easy to feel as though we’ve done our part. We have, but only in part. The whole business about recycling largely depends on the market and the government, as well as the available facilities. In other words, how much demand is there for the material, how useful they are, and will they be repurposed somewhat easily?
And to answer the question above, different sources will tell you different things. Based on the different sources we went through, the answer seems to be a “technically, yes”. But then other issues such as usability, cost, and quality among other things come into play, so it’s easier to say “no”. We’ll leave the debate to the experts, and instead switch the focus to what we can do instead.
The Three Recyclable Plastics in Malaysia
As mentioned in the title itself, there are seven different types of plastic, and each type of plastic product should have a number indicating its type somewhere (usually on the base). In Malaysia, only three are recyclable, so try not to make the mistake of lumping all plastic together to be recycled.
1) Type 1: Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)
Otherwise known as polyester, PET is a strong, clear, lightweight plastic. You might have seen it on your clothing labels (yes, it goes into fabric as well), though most usually they’re made in those clear plastic bottles. You know, the ones with mineral water or other types of drinks. They’re not supposed to be refilled after its initial usage, but the good news is that you can recycle it!
2) Type 2: High-density Polyethylene (HDPE)
Harder, more opaque, and able to somehow withstand higher temperatures, HDPE is used to make a variety of everyday objects, including but not limited to rope, children’s playground equipment, pipes, stools, and plastic mailing envelopes. In fact, most (opaque) bottles like milk jugs, bleach and detergent bottles, and even some bottle caps are made of HDPE, so they’re recyclable.
3) Type 5: Polypropylene (PP)
Polypropylene is the second most widely produced commodity plastic after polyethylene. It’s used in a variety of common objects, including packaging for consumer products, plastic parts for various industries, living hinges, and textiles to name a few. Some PP products include plastic straws, bottle caps, some butter and margarine tubs, stationery folders, and storage boxes.
We won’t go into the other types of plastic to keep it simple, but the following could be helpful in taking your recycling to the next level!
How Can I Recycle?
- Bin location
- Accepts: Anything non food, clean and dry, including paper and cardboard, plastics, metals, electronics, glass, bulbs, and batteries, clothes and textiles.
IPC Recycling & Buy Back Centre
- Cardboard, magazines, paper
- Tin/metal, aluminium
- Batteries/lightbulbs/fluorescent tubes
- Household food waste e.g. kitchen waste, food residue, expired/contaminated food
- Tech gadgets e.g. computers, laptops, CPUs, copiers, printers, wires, chargers
- Small household appliances e.g. irons, toasters, hairdryers
- Big appliances e.g. freezer, old TV
Beyond Bins by Biji-Biji Initiative
- Plastic waste
- Promotes alternative sources of income to underprivileged communities
- Recycled plastic products made customisable
Taiwan Buddhist Tzu-Chi Foundation (Malaysia)
- Accepts most things EXCEPT furniture, mattresses, pillows, soft toys, toys, underwear, polystyrene/clay/wood/bamboo products, tyres, shoes, light bulbs, fluorescent tubes
- Locations of recycling centres
- Electronic waste recycling service with free pickup from Klang Valley
- 24/7 dropoff in Cyberjaya
That’s all on recyclable plastics, and where you can go to drop off your recyclables. Before you throw, make sure you take a look at your items, and decide if it can be recycled. Of course, where possible, a good idea is to reduce the use of plastics as well. Together, we can all do a little more in developing a sustainable lifestyle and planet!