Malaysians, let us talk about the love of our lives…PLASTIC.

We use it more than anything else in the world. When we shop, we ask for plastic bags (even if we must pay for it), when we bag fruit, we use plastic bags, when we buy coffee, it comes in a plastic cup and even when we drink water, we are consuming micro-plastic. We love plastic so much that we can even find it in some commercial fish species.

A 2019 study commissioned by the World-Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) showed that Malaysia ranks second in Asia for annual per capita plastic use. We use 16.78kg per person outranking larger nations, including China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam in overall generated waste. And these 6 countries combined account for around 60% of plastic debris entering the ocean.

You are probably asking, “Eh, what am I doing to contribute to this?”

The biggest contributor to this is our “tapau/bungkus” (take-away) culture. We do it at work, we do it at home and we even do it at the mamak! The trend of drinking a beverage in a takeaway plastic bag while watching football at the mamak.

We are fond of our single-use plasticware from plastic bags to cutlery. What do we do after we eat our take-away? We discard everything. The plastic food container, the plastic cup, the straw, the cutlery. All packed into the plastic bag. If we are at work or at home, it ends up in the garbage bin. If we are out, it usually is eat and forget. Look at any fast-food joints and how patrons just leave their garbage everywhere. Are you part of that movement?

Now comes the other thought in your head, “how much plastic am I using when I tapau? Can’t be thaaaat much, right?”

Wrong. When you take-away a soup dish, most times it would comprise up to six different single-use items. You just do not realise it.

1 x Plastic for noodles.

1 x Plastic for soup.

1 x (big) Plastic bag to carry food.

1 x (small) Plastic bag for chilli/sambal.

1 x Chopsticks packed in plastic.

1 x Plastic spoon.

Plastic FREE
Plastic FREE

So, what happens when I discard plastic, throw it away or do my favourite which is litter?

There are three scenarios which usually play out:

The first scenario, just throwing it away, is of the most common ones: It ends up in a landfill where it makes its way into the ground and streams. It would take about 1,000 years to decompose. 1 family generation is around 25 to 30 years. Now imagine if that bottle got into a stream, how many family generations of yours would it harm with its microplastic?

The second scenario, littering, is equally unpleasant: Most littered garbage ends finding its way into the sea and ocean where sooner or later it will join the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and into the food chain which we, humans, are on the top.

The third scenario, recycling, is different from the previous two: The plastic garbage is recycled and its material can be used again.

A good video by Ted-Ed to watch on what happens to plastic when it is discarded:

Plastic cannot be avoided BUT we can make conscious choices to not buy things in plastic packaging and we can reduce our plastic usage as well. The first one is fairly easy and the second is a challenge you can do.

The challenge is called the Plastic Free July where you just simply REFUSE single-use plastic items. You making a small change can make big differences in communities. Take the challenge and cut out plastic from your life for 1 month.

Simple steps:

  1. Bring a tote bag when you go grocery shopping.
  2. Reuse your plastic water bottle instead of throwing it away after use.
  3. Better still, bring your own bottle. You know, the expensive one because that will ensure you treasure it, like how Gollum treasured his precious ring.
  4. Plan ahead. I always have a spare tumbler in the car in the event I want to drink coffee.

Remember reduce or refuse, try to reuse, if not, recycle. Do you part. We only have one Earth. Don’t allow our inactions kill the future for all.

References and sources:


Aside from our beach cleaning activities that are open to all, we at MY Clean Beach want to promote a better environment for the future generation to inherit.

Reuse, recycle and most importantly, try to eliminate single use plastic from everyday life.

Article Contributed by

Article Contributed by

Shamsher Singh Gill