Speech by Josephine Tan, General Manager of Penang Green Council during the Plastic Disclosure Project (PDP) Training on 24th June 2020:
Good morning ladies and gentlemen for joining us in today’s session. Welcome to the Plastic Disclosure Project (PDP) Training.
Last February, we held the first Stakeholder Consultation on Penang’s Green Initiative: Solving Plastic Pollution at Source with a total of 78 participants from diverse range of stakeholders in Penang. Today’s PDP Training is next step forward for us to empower the Local Councils in order to tackle plastic pollution at source hand in hand.
As we all know, plastic pollution is a global concern, especially when we talk about single-use plastics. This year, Covid-19 pandemic outbreak has worsened the whole situation when medical protection items such as face masks and face shields have become our daily necessities to prevent infections and to protect the people.
Ever since the implementation of Movement Control Order (MCO) started in Malaysia, a considerable amount of single-use plastic for example contaminated face masks, disposable food packaging and plastic wraps are being littered on the streets, in drains and waterways. Even though Penang has introduced the No Free Plastic Bag Campaign since 2009 and No Single-use Plastic Campaign since April 2019, however due to this pandemic, we found that the single-use plastic items are making a comeback.
We understand that this is not just about one party but the whole of Penang. There is lack of awareness and knowledge amongst the community about the impacts of single-use plastics towards the environment and the effects of microplastics on marine animals and human health. In fact, the Local Council workers and informal waste pickers who are exposed to these plastics and trash most of the time are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus pandemic if the waste is not segregated and disposed properly.
Another fact that I would like to share with everyone today is that the plummeting oil prices globally have led to a dramatic decrease in the value of plastics and companies are making tough decisions about whether recycling is still an economically viable option. We could foresee that companies will return to produce virgin or new plastics soon if this continues.
Nonetheless, the increase in single-use plastics will have long-term impacts on the environment. The degraded microplastic can be very dangerous and poses a great threat to aquatic lives as they are easily mistaken for food. As part of the food chain, we the humans will eventually consume the aquatic lives with plastics in them.
The PDP Training is specially designed for the Local Council with aims to empower the local councils, thereby enabling implementation of projects or programmes to reduce plastic pollution. The core of this training is to help us to understand the baseline of the current use, recovery, recycling and use of recycled content. Throughout this project training, we hope to gain knowledge and capacity on how to engage employees, partners, procurement teams, solid waste and public cleansing departments. Besides, this is also to provide us the management knowledge of resources that will support the circular economy.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank our speaker today, Mr. Douglas Woodring, the Founder and also Managing Director of Ocean Recovery Alliance and also our moderator, Ms. Jacqueline Chang from United Nations Environment Programme, who is also the National Consultant of SEA Circular Project at Ministry of Environment, Malaysia currently. Thank you so much for spending your time and ideas with us on what we can do to combat plastic pollution at source.
It is crucial for us to take the necessary actions now before it is too late. Our landfills are unable to cope when plastics are over-consumed as time goes by. We come to this world with beautiful nature and abundance of resources, why should we leave a world full with trash and plastics to our children? This is not a mission impossible when everyone is doing their part. Thus, we are here today to make a change. Last but not least, I hope that everyone will be able to learn something new throughout this training and please enjoy the sessions with us.