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Waste Sector Roundtable Series: Session 1: Corporations and Consumers

Updated: May 22, 2023

Dr Kalanithi Nesaretnam, co-founder of CGM in her opening remarks stated that annually, the world generates 1.3 billion tons of solid waste. This is expected to go up to 2.2 billion by 2025. Businesses are thinking not only about how to reduce consumer waste but also how to reduce, reuse and recycle waste at their companies. This is partly driven by the rising price of raw materials and partly due to both consumers and companies becoming more aware of the need to protect our environment and reduce green-house gas emissions.

She went on to add that 7% of greenhouse gases produced globally were due to preventable food waste and in 2021, Malaysia generated 38,219 tonnes of solid waste per day and 10% of the garbage we throw out every day is food that can still be eaten. She quoted that we dump 4,081 tonnes of edible food – enough to fill one-and-a-half Olympic sized swimming pools. Malaysians must save their food and by managing our food consumption, we will not just save our environment but also our pockets.

The moderator Mr.Dave Sivaprasad of Boston Consulting, informed that the UN has predicted that 12 billion tonnes of plastic waste will be leaked into the environment by 2050, and that for every 10 apples produced, 3 and a half of them are lost and wasted along the supply chain. Almost 1.2 trillion dollars- worth of food has been wasted globally.

Mr Juan Aranols, CEO of Nestle, talked about how Nestle targets to have all their packaging to be either recyclable or reusable by 2025. They understand that by creating core values, it will be good for business, society and the environment. He also talked about forging partnerships with like-minded stakeholders that share the same goal in doing the right thing and work together.

Mr. Geoff King: CEO, of The Food Purveyor, spoke about how they target to rid themselves of all single use plastics introduced in their business by the end of 2023. They took the initiative on a voluntary basis to coordinate and run their sustainable initiatives without the government’s push or penalties. They have successfully eradicated 27 million single use plastics out of the system every year without the need of governmental regulations or any other form of regulatory push.

Ms Wong Sheue Yann, Divisional GM, Eco World Malaysia, informed that digitalisation was one way to improve efficiency and productivity and by being sustainable you are more efficient and become more profitable. Eco World actively practices the 3Rs as it not only reduces waste, but it saves excessive costs.

Ms. Suzanne Mooney, Founder of the Lost Food Project informed that at the lost food project they were creating a channel so that wasted food that is causing problems to the planet is given to people in poverty.

Dr. Sri Umeswara, CEO of Dialog Eseco, said there needs to be more awareness on the misconception about recycling. Glass for example he said was reusable but when it increases, we do not have enough glass recyclers in Malaysia now so it piles up in the landfill. The operations at ESECO were able to provide informed and accurate calculations on the total greenhouse gas emissions prevented from being released into the atmosphere through their close loop system.

Finally from the discussions, it was evident that there was an urgency for the Government to provide policy direction and lead the way including:

● Policy announcements to be followed through with transparent and coordinated implementation mechanisms

○ For example, since the launch of the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act 2007 (Act 672) in September 2015, there has not been any form of penalization towards households which has failed to separate their waste.

● Increasing incentives to the private sector in funding and tax benefits.

○ Incentives for sustainable efforts in companies could motivate more companies as it does cost money to be sustainable

○ Recommendation for policies that promote tax incentives to encourage and support sustainable initiatives.

● Increase accountability to ensure the follow through mechanisms act as a feedback loop with the participation of the private sector.

○ A recommendation to incorporate waste accountability as a part of sustainability reports

Here is the Q&A

Q: What backend system is Lost Food using to track the end-to-end collection, transport, cooking, in-between storage & distribution?.

  • The Lost Food Project has been using simple systems in the early days. That is namely weighing all donations and tracking in excel programmes. However, we are now segueing into Salesforce and also in the process of appointing a WMS system to facilitate ease of use and allow more functions from our data.

Q: The Ministry of Environment and Water (KASA) has announced setting up a new voluntary carbon market by end of this year. Are there any opportunities for generating carbon credits from this waste management to improve cost recovery? Have any of the panelists explored this route?

  • TLFP is very interested in carbon credits. We have spoken to Standard Gold to try and align with an organisation working in this area. We would be very happy to speak to any government policy makers or groups working on this in Malaysia.

Q: What policies might drive private sector to decarbonise waste? Where are we in Malaysia in terms of what our policy makers have done thus far?

  • Decarbonisation of waste needs incentives to kick start and support new companies in this area. TLFP has a proposal to reduce carbon waste from food and at the same time support the most vulnerable in our society. We are very keen to work with government departments on this proposal.

Q: Can the panel share regarding the government of Malaysia's plastic roadmap which was released this year?

  • The Malaysia Plastics Sustainability Roadmap (MPSR) 2021-2030 was launched on 10 December 2021. The following working groups have been established such as: 1) Biodegradable/Alternative to conventional plastics 2) Plastics Innovation and Solutions 3) Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme 4) Microplastics 5) Circular Economy data network platform 6) MPSR coordination and implementation strategy 7) Plastics strategic communication 8) Plastics Sustainability Reporting

  • The relevant stakeholders are have been invited to deliberate, and currently working on the strategies.

Q: Are the low-hanging fruits that the sector can take to achieve its goal?

  • Start by increasing awareness, making it easy for individuals and the private sector to recycle their waste, and work with NGOs (e.g. single mothers) who can repurpose textiles into toys, etc to monetise waste. As much as we would like helpful policies or incentives we have to recognise also that the government has many hungry mouths to feed and a very limited budget. However as companies like ESECO have been able to demonstrate, some waste definitely has value. So we should educate the public about these matters (work with the respective JMBs, homeowners associations and connect with them to actively promote recycling (whether by appealing to their altruism or desire to make some small money from their own waste). If such habits can be ingrained into individuals’ mindsets and lives then we have a better chance that it will also permeate the workplace. The lowest hanging fruit is reducing food waste and converting carbon waste into biogas rather than going into landfills.

Q: What is the progress for the current progress such as targets, and commitments in climate action for the sector?

  • The Food Purveyor is on a mission to eliminate all the single-use plastic it adds into its retail operation before the end of 2023. Already we’ve removed the cling wrap and plastic protection from over 50% of the fruit and veg we carry; we have eliminated 80% of single-use plastic from our bakery sales; and 90% of plastic from our coffee cups lids and straws. We are trialing paper trays for meat and fish together with reusable bags for loose produce and meat and fish. Our big win so far has been to eliminate single-use plastic carrier bags and ask customers to bring their own. This initiative alone has saved over 26m single-use carrier bags from entering society every year.

Q: What policies might drive private sector to decarbonize waste? Where are we in Malaysia in terms of what our policymakers have done thus far?

  • Tougher policies on single-use carrier bags now we have a proof case that customers can bring their own. I recommend an outright ban from all food retail/grocer shops and raise the bag tax to Rm1 a bag to discourage everywhere else.

However, It is not all doom and gloom. There are experts out there to call upon who can help. Indeed, we can help each other by getting companies and CEOs to share great practices.

And lastly, Climate Governance Malaysia is here to help. Join us and get more knowledge. Meet experts and others in your position so we do not all have to reinvent the wheel.

Click for the recording, videos and speaker bios.


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