Malaysians generate about 38,000 tonnes of waste daily. Around 15,000 tonnes of this is food waste – this can increase by up to 50% during festive periods!

These are the findings of SWCorp Malaysia, a government agency dealing with solid waste.

“The escalating amount of food waste is indeed a worrying trend, especially during festive seasons,” said Ir Azmi Ibrahim, director of the Selangor Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID Selangor).

“It is a wake-up call for all of us. Improper handling of food waste is a serious threat to our rivers.”

He explained that Malaysians love their food, but usually tend to order more than they can eat (note: this also leads to overspending and obesity).

“So the extra food ends up in the bin. When disposed improperly, it may end up in the drains that flow into our rivers. This causes river pollution and also clogging, which can increase flood risks.”

He was speaking in support of the Ramadan Hijau (Green Ramadan) campaign under the River of Life – Public Outreach Programme (ROL-POP) which aims to boost public awareness on waste reduction to help create healthier rivers.

food waste

‘Only buy what is needed and avoid wastage. If you can afford to buy more, donate to your neighbours’ reads this volunteer’s message at the Ramadan bazaar in Putrajaya. Photos: Filepics

This campaign comes on the back of alarming food waste during Ramadan and festive seasons, he added. It is being organised by DID Selangor, with the support of the Municipal Council of Ampang Jaya (MPAJ) and the Municipal Council of Selayang (MPS), which oversee areas to the east and north respectively of Kuala Lumpur.

Responsible eating

The Ramadan Hijau campaign introduced easy steps to reduce food waste:

1) Replace disposable plastic bags with recyclable and reusable food containers.

2) Consume food responsibly during Ramadan and the Hari Raya celebrations.

In addition, the public was educated about recycling used cooking oil into other useful products such as candles, soaps and biodiesel. Food traders and the public are encouraged to take their used oil to recycling centres set up by MPAJ and MPS.

ROL-POP is a programme to improve attitudes/behaviours to reduce pollution in the Klang and Gombak Rivers, which flow through Selangor and Kuala Lumpur. This Green Ramadan project is part of Phases 3B and 4 of ROL-POP working with communities around the Ampang Jaya and Selayang municipalities. The campaign slogan is SUKA or “Sungai Untuk Kehidupan Anda” (“Our Rivers, Our Lives”).

food waste

Recycled cooking oil can be made into candles, soaps and biodiesel.

Many households and food traders are still not aware of the proper disposal of used cooking oil. Most still pour it down the drain or sink, and it eventually ends up in the river.

This not only causes pollution but also lowers the oxygen levels of the water (thus affecting aquatic life). If carried to excess, it will eventually lead to a dead river, the very opposite objective of the River of Life project.

ROL-POP handed out educational leaflets to over 100 traders (and the public) at Ramadan bazaars in Pandan Indah, Bandar Baru Ampang and Taman Melur (part of MPAJ’s area), as well as 60 traders at Gombak Setia and Taman Ehsan (under MPS).

“It is important for the public to rethink the way we manage food waste during the upcoming Hari Raya festive season,” said Hazwani Alias, a regular patron of the Pandan Indah Ramadan bazaar.

“This campaign has reminded me that the best place to start making a difference is from our home.”

Mohammad Nur Hasyim, who was running a murtabak stall at the same bazaar, said he is aware of the negative eco impacts of dumping used cooking oil irresponsibly.

He believes traders should support the recycling of used cooking oil by depositing it at the collection centre set up by the local council.