All in a day’s work
Alam Flora’s garbage collectors take pride in their task of keeping the city clean.
Latiff: ‘The most important element lacking is cooperation among the people in general pertaining to waste disposal.’
Garbage collector Mat Shah Ali, 49, has been working in the business for 27 years from his days at Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL). It has been 12 years since he has been with Alam Flora.
His job takes a lot more patience and endurance than expected. This was because the stench from the garbage and dripping leachate could leave a normal person feeling sick for days.
But for the garbage collectors, they don’t feel disgusted or sick. It is their bread and butter. They do it more with pride, as they are the people responsible for keeping our neighbourhood and city always clean.
The Star, who followed these men on a round recently, realised that it is tiring to walk from one rubbish bin to another under the blazing sun.
Mat Shah said: “People do not cooperate when it comes to disposal of waste. They never put it a plastic or even in bins.
“But it is my responsibility to carry out this job efficiently even though there are risks.
He said his hand was cut several times due to broken glass thrown in the garbage.
For Latiff Jaafar, 50 the most important element lacking is cooperation among the people pertaining to waste disposal.
He said if everyone worked together, it would make his job a lot easier to collect garbage.
“People like to throw rubbish indiscriminately, which is a bad attitude. But I am proud to have been given the responsibility because I am helping the society,” he said.
“There is still a lack of awareness among people about how to dispose of garbage properly with some piling their rubbish in front of the shops instead of the back,” he said.
When asked if he ever gets nauseated, Latiff who has been in this line for 26 years said the smell never bothered him.
Alam Flora senior manager Dzulkarnain Abu Bakar said the collection starts early in the morning with the compactors making two trips to an area. Then the garbage is disposed of by the Alam Flora at the transfer station in Kepong at about 11am and 3pm.
The transfer station operator will then continue the disposal of garbage to Bukit Tagar in Hulu Selangor. Collection will be done daily seven times a week for commercial areas and three times a week for housing estates.
“What happens at the landfill area is that the garbage will be covered with the landfill material. The separation is also done before it goes to the landfill area. Our main objective is about reducing the waste as well as recycling, which will help lengthen the life of the landfill.
“Domestic waste tops as the most garbage disposed followed by plastic.
“Based on our statistics the amount of waste is increasing so it is important to create awareness to reduce it,” he said.
He said there was a possibility a city could be filled with garbage if people continued to dispose of waste the way they’re doing now. – By Fazleena Aziz, Photos by Raymond Ooi
Finding the best way to manage waste
Managing a city of 2.2 million can be a stretch. Local governments who are ill- prepared often find themselves saddled with a much bigger problem which usually connects to the environment.
Take garbage, for example. Kuala Lumpur produces 3,000 to 3,500 tonnes of domestic and industrial waste per day (the current waste generation for an average household has reached 0.8 to 1.3kg per day).
No easy task: Properly packed garbage makes the garbage collector’s job much easier.
As these garbage rots in our landfill, it produces a toxic goey substance called leachate. For every 3,500 tonnes of rubbish (one tonne of garbage produces 150 litres of leachate), about 525,000 litres of leachate is produced. Movement of the leachate either above or below ground into reservoirs and rivers ultimately contaminate these precious resources.
The other alternative, incineration, has always been met with public opposition due to its harmful emissions.
But fear not. It’s not all doom and gloom as there is a way out of the waste and it starts with you!
Alam Flora chief executive officer Datuk Zahri Abdul Ghani believes that when it comes to waste management, it is imperative for one to take a more holistic approach to tackle the problem.
“Public and community participation is essential for the better management of waste. How one manages his waste starts at home,’’ Zahri said.
For instance, if each household were to segregate their waste in order to reduce waste disposal at the landfill, much can be done to delay the damage to the environment.
“Segregation should not just be about separating items like glass, metal, plastic, and styrofoam containers but it should also include draining out liquids from waste before placing them into the bin,’’ he said, adding that once organic and inorganic waste are mixed, it’s going to be very difficult to separate them.
“That would make it difficult to implement the 3R (reduce, reuse, recycle) lifestyle. Reducing what we use, and what we waste means using fewer natural resources and less energy.
“Less waste also means less land put aside for burying waste in landfills. If waste segregation is implemented, the Malaysian recycling rate of five per cent can easily go up to 50% like in Germany,’’ Zahri added.
Another way to reduce waste includes buying goods that use less packaging and reducing consumption of goods and services. Many items can be re-used such as containers and jars.
One of the most harmful substance to the environment – which Malaysians just love to use is the polystyrene food container which takes millions of years to decompose.
But despite the damage it does to our environment, it is impossible to get people to stop using the items. In fact municipal governments in some Asian cities like Beijing even tried banning the use of tetra pack, but over here any dis-incentive or penalty charges is frowned upon.
“We have a long way to go in waste management when you compare with countries like Germany, Singapore and Japan,’’ said president of the Environmental Protection Society Malaysia Nithi Nesadurai.
“That’s because Malaysians’ civic conscious level is very low. Awareness is there, yet people still litter. Perhaps a change in attitude will only come with a penalty,’’ Nithi said.
But are we ready for that? “Changing people’s mindset is going to be our biggest challenge and we prefer to educate rather than punish,’’ Zahri said, adding that Malaysians are not ready for the penalty culture yet.
With that in mind, Alam Flora is hoping through their Local Agenda 21 Kuala Lumpur project, to work with the private, public and the community to carry out various programmes towards sustainable and economic development to create the much needed awareness.
Aside from that, the passing of the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act 2007 to standardise solid waste management the country is also seen as a move in the right direction and sign of greater things to come in national waste management. – By Bavani M