Government should learn from Bangladesh and ban the use of plastic
by Teresa Kok Suh Sim
(Kuala Lumpur, Tuesday):
I urge the government to
learn from Bangladesh and ban the use of plastic and replace plastic wares
with bio-degradable materials before building incinerators in every part of
the country. This is because plastic and chlorine-based materials produce
dioxin when they are burnt.
As substitute for plastic, bio-degradable bags should be popularised like
what is being practised in developed countries to promote a more
environmentally-friendly and conscious consumption behaviour. At the same
time, efforts to promote recycling should be step up so that we can achieve
the 50% recycling rate in developed nations.
If incinerators were to be used, several basic conditions for safety should
(i) there must be separation of waste from an early stage; and
(ii) there should be no residential areas located within a 7.5km radius from
the incinerator site.
In the case of the construction of the Broga incinerator, Local Government
director-general Datuk Mohamad Saib had stated that:
(i) the separation of tin, metals and glass takes place during the first
stage of waste burning;
(ii) the plant's dioxin emissions of 0.1 nanogrammes of dioxin per cubic
metre of emissions are within internationally-accepted limits; and
(iii) the location of the plant would be 2.5km from the nearest residential
Firstly, the government must ensure that priority is given to waste
separation before any incineration takes place. Non-degradable materials
like plastic, tin, metals and glass should be separated from the start and
not after they have gone through first-stage burning at a temperature of 400
to 600 degrees Celsius as this will result in greater production of dioxins.
Secondly, the question of what is the "safe limit" for dioxin discharge is
subject to challenge. Many experts have in fact seriously questioned the
emission limit of 0.1ng/Nm3, arguing that in reality there is no safe dosage
for dioxin intake. If there is indeed no safe dosage, then we should not
assume that there is a safe dioxin emission limit.
The most recent report on dioxin by the United States Environmental
Protection Agency released in 2000 had revealed that the risk of getting
cancer from dioxin is today 10 times higher than reported in 1994 and it now
considers dioxin to be carcinogenic to humans. That is why the danger of
dioxins to human health should never be underestimated, especially as they
are the most toxic chemicals on the planet.
Thirdly, the very real health threat posed by dioxins makes it imperative
that any incinerator be built as far as possible from residential areas.
This is to ensure that human exposure to dioxins is reduced and minimised.
As such, the stipulated 2.5km distance of the Broga plant from the nearest
residential area is not good enough.
According to the United States EPA Clean Air Act, the United Nations
Environment Programme and the United Kingdom Department of Environment, the
requirement of impact assessment of an area should be within a 7.5km radius.
In view of this, the government should make sure that that the Broga
incinerator is sited at least 7.5km from the nearest residential area,
especially as the exact location has yet to be determined.
Teresa Kok Suh Sim,
DAP MP for Seputeh