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October 27, 2009

Letter to the Editor

Clean parks come at a price

ON Sunday, I took part in a clean-up at the Kanching Recreational Forest as part of an environmental initiative by the Waterfall Survivors Facebook group.

The volunteers collected close to 400 bags of rubbish. While the effort is commendable, I worry that not enough is being done to deter visitors from leaving litter behind in parks and forests. Environmental groups appear to be preaching to the converted, and most Malaysians still lack the maturity and mindfulness to keep places of natural interest clean.

I urge the Natural Resource and Environment Ministry, Wildlife and National Parks Department, and management bodies of parks and recreational forests to look into long-term solutions. I propose the following measures:


To charge a deposit on all food and beverage containers and disposable packaging brought into park premises. To be effective, all concession and snack stalls must be outside park premises. Park attendants can check the belongings of visitors and charge a deposit of, say RM1, for each cigarette packet, plastic bag and food and beverage container or packaging brought into the park at the entrance counter and inform the visitors that they will get their deposit back if they bring the items back for disposal upon exit. To ensure its effectiveness, all unofficial entrances to parks will have to be closed off and the park gates must be closed at night, not only to maintain cleanliness, but also to prevent the parks from being used for vice, illegal activities and drinking sessions.


To impose a higher fee on plastic bags and Styrofoam packaging to reflect their cradle-to-grave cost and the true environmental cost of cleaning up clogged drains and rivers. This will, in turn, encourage manufacturers, retailers and consumers to look for alternatives to disposable and non-biodegradable packaging.


To institute a nationwide deposit system for recyclable items such as aluminium cans, plastic bottles and beverage cartons. The cost of buying packaged food and beverages does not reflect the cost of disposing them and managing the waste generated. If a 20-sen deposit were to be charged for each unit of recyclable packaging, which will be claimable at designated recycling centres, it would create an incentive for people to collect and redeem their recyclables for cash, and this would also hopefully translate into less litter on beaches and in parks.

Education and awareness campaigns will have little, if any, positive impact on an informed but apathetic population. Different strategies are required to deter littering.

Wong Ee Lynn
Petaling Jaya


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