Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Facts About Recycling Paper

Learning the facts about recycling paper will help you as you fulfill your part to keep our environment green. You only need to look around you to see that paper is everywhere and of course, the need for it is essential. If we keep our minds focused on the desire to be friendly to our Earth and her resources, recycling will become important. After a while, we will be in the habit of recycling the paper we use in the course of a given day. Likewise, we will teach our children so that recycling becomes as common and familiar as ABC.

Why Recycle Paper?

Statistics available show the following:

  • A typical office generates about 455gms of paper per employee and that from that paper, 77 percent of what is wasted in offices across the country is recyclable.
  • Most of the paper wasted is high grade paper.
  • Using old paper to make new paper uses 30 to 50 percent less energy than making paper from trees.
  • Pollution is also reduced by 95 percent when used paper is made into new sheets.
  • 40 percent of all waste going to landfills is paper. Cutting down on paper waste will extend the lives of our landfills.
  • Newspaper can be recycled into egg cartons, game boards, new newspaper, gift boxes, animal bedding, insulation and packaging material.
  • Office paper is recycled into paper towels, tissue paper and toilet paper.
  • Corrugated cardboard is created into new cardboard and cereal boxes.

With these facts about recycling paper the multiple benefits to the environment are obvious.

What Can be Recycled

The following cardboard and paper items can be placed in the recycle bins to be recycled:

  • White paper
  • Colored paper
  • White and colored envelopes with windows
  • Booklets
  • Manuals
  • Fax and telex copy paper
  • Adding machine tape
  • Carbon-less forms
  • Post-It notes
  • Soft-covered books with white pages
  • Time cards
  • Greeting cards (see Note below)
  • Manila folders
  • Telephone directories
  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Flyers

Non Acceptable Items for Recycling

The following are not accepted in recycling bins:

  • Pizza boxes (unless they have the recycling symbol on them, showing they are made of corrugated cardboard; some pizza restaurants are becoming more eco-friendly)
  • Coffee cups
  • Candy wrappers
  • Tissues
  • Paper towels
  • Carbon paper
  • Brown and kraft envelopes


Avoid creating additional waste this Christmas by considering how to recycle Christmas cards. This helps to reduce the huge amount of paper and card stock which is placed into landfill sites, and importantly, can help reduce the call on virgin materials and the energy used to create and process them.

Christmas cards are an important part of the festive season. They are a great way to send a greeting to people that perhaps you do not see often. A Christmas card can bring a huge amount of pleasure to people and can help to stop people and families from getting out of touch with each other. The downside, however, is the huge amount of paper and card that is used each year. Envelopes that get thrown away immediately and cards that remain on display for only a couple of weeks are unfortunately a poor use of resources.

Recycling Christmas cards is an ideal way to ensure that they do not just end up rotting in landfill sites. Christmas cards are often printed on high quality card stock and can be used in a variety of ways.

Karen my wife, recyles greeting cards into small gift boxes or gift tags.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Few Malaysians are aware that Hong Kong now requires retail outlets to charge 50cents (20sen) for a plastic bag and in many places in the UK, consumers fork out at least 5 pence (25sen) for one.

In several towns in India people have been told to use cloth bags for shopping. In 2004, the Indian Railways started promoting use of environmentally friendly clay cups for drinks sold at stations to replace containers made of non-biodegradable plastic and polystyrene.

These are but few examples of communities around the world that are moving fast to remove or reduce the scourge of plastic bags in their environments, and are making significant strides in changing the attitudes of people in taking for granted non-biodegradable materials.

Yet, in Malaysia, a state government’s move to ban free plastic bags (people can still have them for 20sen each: the money goes to charity) has met with heavy opposition, not surprisingly enough, mostly from plastic manufacturers.

From January, Penang is imposing a complete ban on giving of free plastic bags at hypermarkets and supermarkets, with plans to extend the ruling to include smaller retail outlets and, very likely even hawkers. It is a move the state will likely pose a political challenge, iof it turns out to be unpopular.

And the plastic manufacturers are leading the charge in being stridently critical. As it is, the Selangor government and the federal authorities are also following suit to impose restrictions on plastic bags.

The manufacturers insist their productions have been hit following Penang’s “No Plastic Bag” campaign, which is now limited to three days a week. The state has already imposed a ban on polystyrene for all licensed eateries with enforcement to begin in January.

It is encouraging manufacturers and distributors to come up with biodegradable containers, like food-grade paper boxes and containers made of organic husks.

The Malaysian Plastic Manufacturers Association had as early as last year delivered a memorandum urging the state to reconsider the campaign. It maintained that plastic can be recycled with proper planning and implementation.

The manufacturers have since cited, among other things, studies that supposedly point to pollutions rising in countries that have banned plastic bags. They insist that deaths of marine creatures from plastic, something that is widely publicized, are caused by the fishing industry which uses nylon nets and leaves behind plastic debris in the seas, and not plastic bags.

To be fair, the manufacturers’ main concern is not environmental but economics. One can, however, empathise with the new business dilemma they now face.

Consider, for example, that almost 90% of plastic bag factories in the northern region cater for the local market. And on the average, they are now seeing productions plummeting by 30%, with a few being affected by as much as 75%.

But the state too has its concerns, which are not in the least bit unwarranted. Studies have shown that plastic make up 15-17% of Penang’s waste. Every year, plastic materials clog up public drains and canals causing flash floods* during heavy rains.

The recycling rate for plastic, a highly non-biodegradable material is 3%. And as many as 25.2 million plastic bags, or 2.5 million pieces a month, were given away in 2008 in six major groups of supermarkets and hypermarkets. If one were to add that sum to the millions unaccounted for bags distributed by retailers, hawkers and other traders, the state faces a massive problem in waste management.

So this plastic dilemma precipitated by Penang’s ban will not test the government’s political will. It will, more importantly, be a test of the maturity of our people. It will show whether Malaysians can be as conscientious and educated in changing their habits as other communities around the world are doing.

(Himanshu Bhatt (The Nutmeg Verses)is the Sun’s Penang bureau chief.)

* For the first time Singapore's Orchard Road experienced flooding. It was later determined that the culprit was paper bags.

Monday, November 22, 2010


A reader requested that I put this as a post. Here it is.

NASA reports, by the next 10 months, earth gets hotter by 4 degrees from now.

The Himalayan glaciers are melting at a rapid rate.
So all of you lend your hands to fight Global Warming.
We have to take the following steps :

Plant more trees.

Don't waste water

Water is a precious resource

Don't Use or Burn PLASTIC.

Hold back or go prepared to counter temptation with a cloth bag.


Monday, November 15, 2010


In our concerted effort to promote a conducive environment, a “war” seems to be waging between paper bags and plastic bags. It is heading towards being the flavor of the decade.

Penang has banned plastic bags

The Negeri Sembilan state government is considering making it a condition that all businesses - from hypermarkets to pasar malam traders - do not use plastic bags on stipulated days as part of their licensing requirement.

Selangor promotes the use of paper bags on certain days of the week.

A Selangor backbencher has urged the state government to close down factories producing plastic bags to effectively curb their use.

Shafie Abu Bakar (PAS-Bangi) said that the state's "No plastic bag" campaign is not achieving its target and as such more radical measures are required.

He described the current campaign as ineffective and a waste of state government resources.

I consider this move not very proactive….more a knee-jerk easy-way-out reaction.

Fortunately we hear a sane voice in Consumer Affairs and Environment exco member MP Elizabeth Wong's who replied that prohibition of plastic bag production was too extreme and was not in line with the state's objective of educating the public on the need to reduce plastic bag usage. Syabas YB Eli.

In one swoop plastic bags have become the villain of the pack because it is not biodegradable. Lets hear from an expert like
Michael Pollick:

Grocery stores ask paper or plastic but which is healthier environmentally?

A guide to recycling, materials and the technology behind bags.

For years, grocery clerks have routinely asked customers if they would prefer paper or plastic bags. It would seem now that the preference has shifted in the direction of plastic, for reasons which have little to do with environmental issues and everything to do with convenience and efficiency. Many stores today automatically set up their check-out stands for plastic bags, often making the decision for paper much more difficult for the consumer. From a business standpoint, it's not hard to gauge the preferences of most grocery and retail stores today- the ubiquitous plastic bag.

But does this mean the paper bag, often seen as the more environmentally-conscious choice, has become extinct? Not necessarily. Paper packaging is still used extensively, from gift wrap to envelopes to meat wrappers. Customers still prefer paper products for applications where plastic bags aren't especially helpful. Plastic bags may rule at the check-out counter, but cardboard and other paper products are still preferred elsewhere.

So which form of bag is actually best for the environment? It depends on how you define 'best' when it comes to issues of environmental responsibility. Both paper and plastic bags are produced in factories, which means energy consumption and waste materials as by-products. Instinctively, many consumers would assume that paper bags would be better for the environment because their core ingredient is derived from the natural product called wood. But the wood industry is also held responsible for clear-cutting old growth forests and adding to the problems of deforestation. Replanting fast-growing pine trees may solve the recycling problem for the companies, but it also creates unnatural forests with fewer hardwood trees for native animals to inhabit.

Plastic also receives a fair share of criticism from environmentalists. Plastic is by its very nature an 'artificial' product, derived ultimately from petroleum or other chemicals. Producing usable plastic often involves creating heat sources in factories and substantial amounts of water to control the process. Harmful chemicals may be released into the air in the form of smoke. Ground water may become contaminated by the run-off of plastic by-products. Until recently, most plastic grocery bags and other packaging were largely un-biodegradable, which meant they were not breaking down into harmless components after being discarded by consumers. Older plastics would continue to contaminate the environment and release harmful gases for months or years.

So if neither paper nor plastic is completely safe environmentally, which one is closer to the right answer?

Again, it depends on your definition of environmental safety. Paper bags have always been recyclable and biodegradable, which means consumers can be assured that the product will not harm the environment after disposal. Paper bags can be reused for other projects involving paper, which encourages recycling. Paper companies often use a lower-grade paper pulp to manufacture grocery bags, which means that the factory is using almost all of its supply of wood effectively. Grocery store packers also tend to fit more products in each bag, which reduces the total number of bags used per transaction. Packers are sometimes encouraged to use more plastic bags in order to avoid accidental breakage. This practice leads to excessive waste over the years.

But plastic bags also have their environmental advantages. The energy used to produce plastic bags is often less than the energy used to produce an equivalent number of paper bags. Plastic extrusion machines can create hundreds of individual bags from a surprisingly small amount of raw plastic material. Plastic can also be produced from lower-grade petroleum, which means that each barrel of crude oil (ultimately a natural product) is used efficiently. Since it takes far less raw material to produce one plastic grocery bag than an equivalent paper one, an argument could be made that plastic is actually a better choice environmentally. Recent advances in polymer technology have also resulted in plastics which are closer to true biodegradability than older forms of plastic. Modern plastic bags will eventually be reduced to the minimal amount of raw materials they contain. Plastic bags can also be reused as garbage containers or freezer bags, creating less of a need for more expensive plastic products.

The ultimate answer between paper or plastic may remain a matter of debate for years. But the recent tendency of stores to offer plastic nearly exclusively may indicate the future from a business point of view. If demand for paper bags continues to decline, then paper companies may stop producing them for consumers. A new material may be developed which will be more environmentally friendly than today's plastic bags. Until that day arrives, consumers may have to choose their bags based on convenience as much as environmental concerns.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Driving home after brunch last week I tuned in to my favorite radio station Bfm. It was unfortunate that I only got the tail-end of this program. The program guest mentioned that part of their Green Audit on organizations encourage their clients to cut down on air travel and do more video conferencing. Dang! I have conducted Safety Audits, ISO Audits and Training Audits. I am always looking forward to our Auditor General’s no-holds-barred Audit Report. Green Audit? This must be about the environment, but cutting down on air travel? This is something new to me and I made a mental note to get into this Green Audit thing.

Green Audit is ultimately about corporate responsibility. Scientific research and statistical analysis conducted by Green Audit uncovers the truth about statements made by national governments, large multinationals and the military with regard to the health effects of environmental pollution.

Green Audit was founded in 1992 as an environmental consultancy and review organisation with the aim of monitoring the performance of companies and organizations whose activities might threaten the environment and the health of citizens. Democratic values are threatened when information is kept from the public and all routes of access are controlled. The aim of Green Audit is to give citizens the information they need to be able to question the companies which are destroying the environment we all depend on. It was the worrying recognition that such information is presently suppressed and restricted which provided the impetus for the founding of Green Audit.

Green Audit is also the inspection of a company to assess the total environmental impact of its activities or of a particular product or process.

For example, a green audit of a manufactured product looks at the impact of production (including energy use and the extraction of raw materials used in manufacture), use (which may cause pollution and other hazards), and disposal (potential for recycling, and whether waste causes pollution).

Such surveys allow a widening of the traditional scope of economics by ascribing costs to variables that are usually ignored, such as despoliation of the countryside or air pollution.



Why must Singapore be the first to start on good practices. They have introduced it in their schools! Have we?


Singapore Premier Environmental Recognition Program for Schools.

The Schools' Green Audit programme is designed as a simple environmental audit programme for all schools in Singapore. Students work in teams to audit their school and submit results together with a report on their environmental efforts, including plans for improvements. The Council then conducts on-site visits to verify claims and provides suggestions for improvements.

Based on results, institutions can qualify for one of four award levels, the entry level Palm Award, intermediate level Hibiscus and Orchid Award, or the top level Lotus Award. A Sustained Achievement award is given to schools who have received the Lotus Award three consecutive times.

The aim of the programme is to adopt a holistic approach to environmental management and encourage continuous improvement. It addresses issues such as waste minimisation, resource conservation, and greening of the school grounds amongst others.

In 2008, 170 schools qualified for awards and the awards scheme is run on alternate years (biennial).

The closing date for submissions is 16th August 2010.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Mary Maguire said...

Hey Sampahman, don't believe all you read. I was so pissed off with these special reports that I wrote to the editor as follows:

Dear Sir,

I am writing in response to the special reports about waste management that appeared in the Nation section of your newspaper on November 1st and 2nd.

While I applaud any attempt to inform the public about this serious social and environmental problem, I was appalled to discover that the series of articles you ran were biased in favour of the politico-corporate cartel that has been running this industry for years.
There was no mention at all of the other initiatives that are already taking place in the country which deal with municipal solid waste from a different perspective.

The articles rightly pointed out the problems associated with landfills but to suggest that incinerators are the only option is at best misleading and at worst a deliberate attempt to keep the rate-paying public misinformed.

Incinerator technology is very expensive to build and it operates on traditional non-renewable fuel which means daily running costs are not only high, but they are also unstable due to fluctuations in the global oil price.

A lot of countries that adopted incinerator technology are now moving towards a waste to energy approach to solve municipal waste problems. This approach regards garbage as a valuable resource and reclaims as much as possible in the form of reuseable items and an alternative and renewable industrial fuel which can also be used to generate electricity.

My concern is that there was no mention of this in the so-called in-depth report Don't you think the rate-paying public deserve to be told that there are alternative ways of approaching waste management that are cheaper and environmentally cleaner?


Well, Mary, your letter did not see print but this one by Chock Eng Tah, Managing Director of KUB-Berjaya Enviro Sdn Bhd, did. HERE

You still think we need to continue to keep our fingers crossed?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


The title of this maiden post might put many of you off. Most will say, what rubbish is this? Well it is RUBBISH considering.....

You see, years ago I was assigned to do a corporate profile for a company who wanted to push for paper bags instead of plastic bags. A lot of research ensued and a new love affair blossomed. But it was not passionate enough for it to last long until news broke that we were going nuclear! It was shocking. How can we manage nuclear waste when we are having so much problems handling our municipal wast. So rekindling is an OK word as opposed to the hotstuff reigniting this off and on affair.

Penang is banning plastic bags. So how now?

Of course, paper bags are biodegradable and plastic bags may take decades to biodegrade if they ever do.

I am no tree-hugger although paper-bags mean cutting down trees. If I was a tree-hugger I will encourage every padi-farmer to hug their stalks of padi before harvesting.

Plastic bags can be recycled into park/garden furniture or fences, etc….. and these last longer than wooden furniture, fences etc.

They each have a place in our lives. It is how we dispose of these that create unnecessary problems.

That brings me to what this blog will go into……waste management aka landfills. Of late theSTAR has been having some special reports on landfills, incinerators etc. I do not know what they are leading to with this sudden flurry on the above subjects…..but I just hope they will tell us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth…..even if there is talk of federalizing landfills!