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Plastic policy: Prioritising people and planet over industry profit

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Greenpeace Malaysia welcomes the natural resources and environmental sustainability minister’s announcement that the government is considering the introduction of a dedicated law to address plastic disposal and pollution.

The minister also revealed that the ministry was in talks with the Ministry of the Economy to conduct a proper study on a national plastic policy.

World Refill Day on 16 June served as a global public awareness campaign to prevent plastic pollution and help people live with less waste.

To effectively combat plastic pollution, the national legal framework to phase out single-use plastics should focus on building and scaling reuse systems that can outperform single-use systems.

By keeping products in use as long as possible, we reduce the use of raw materials, cut CO2 emission and energy use in production, and ease the pressure on overburdened recycling and waste management systems.

Research has shown that reusable plastic packaging can be a financially viable alternative to single-use plastic packaging if the right conditions apply.

More than 80% of the respondents in a Greenpeace survey have indicated strong public backing for measures aimed at ending single-use plastics and promoting reuse-based solutions.

Market pressure is driving sustainable packaging adoption, with reuse as a focal point, though businesses fear the initial costs.

Success depends on factors like packaging design, material choice, tracking technology and consumer engagement, with economic sustainability achievable through optimised performance parameters.

Case studies show reusable packaging can be profitable even without wide-scale infrastructure. Collaborative systems can further reduce investment burdens.

This shift can unlock economic benefits, enhance brand loyalty and create green job opportunities, fostering a sustainable future.

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Recycling alone cannot solve a plastic crisis. As of 2023, the national recycling rate was at 35.38%. It can never reach 100% because not all plastics are recyclable and not all recyclable plastics are recycled.

Without addressing the reduction in plastic production, we are not tackling the root cause. We need to shut the plastic tap.

The government should listen to scientists. Biodegradable plastics or bioplastic are false solutions to a plastic pollution crisis.

Scientists at fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee have noted that bioplastics often retain similar elements to traditional plastics, making them no better for the environment. Research has found that bioplastics, like traditional plastics, are as toxic.

The proposed “national plastic policy” should be renamed to “national plastic reduction policy” to articulate the core purpose of the policy. It must put people and the planet first to improve the wellbeing and health of the people – not “profit of oil and plastic industry first”. It needs to:

  • Implement and scale up reuse and refill systems in transitioning away from single-use plastics while taking into account a just transition for workers. Reuse systems present a vital opportunity to move away from the existing linear path of resource exploitation and the “take-make-waste packaging” wasteful economy
  • Eliminate all single-use plastics and other non-essential, unnecessary, unsafe and unsustainable plastic products and applications, as well as plastic alternatives that are made for single use
  • Ban toxic materials used in traditional plastics and bioplastics with requirements for the transparency of chemicals in plastic materials and products throughout their whole life cycle
  • Reject technologies that do not address the root cause of plastic pollution and greenwashing to ensure that the products produced [do not] further perpetuate ‘single-use’, ‘throwaway’ habits and pollution [in order] to prevent further damage to the climate and human and environmental health
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The government should move away from the passive and regressive position during the fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee and be ambitious enough to phase down and cap plastic production in the fifth session in November 2024. – Greenpeace Malaysia

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Khoo Soo Hay
Khoo Soo Hay
19 Jun 2024 10.03am

In the present world, one cannot dismiss or do away with plastics. The only way is to re-use it, and not produce new ones. Going back to using paper means cutting down trees, which means climate change. Before the oceans and skies are flooded with plastics, we need to find substitutes through AI.

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