“The attitude and perception of people towards segregating food waste is a barrier”, says HT Khor. “A greater mindset change for people is needed especially in commercial food centres and among roadside hawkers in order to segregate and dispose of food waste instead of mingling it with other types of solid waste.”
Many recycling initiatives were previously voluntary and only became law relatively recently. For example, a policy to separate waste at source has been extended to residential property owners in Penang on 1 January, 2019, with fines for the first time imposed on those failing to comply.
A waste separation at source policy for all commercial properties has already been in force, but only since 1 January 2018. This was first introduced for specifically for high-rise buildings, shopping malls, restaurants, factories and commercial buildings on 1 June, 2016.
But the state’s inhabitants have only slowly responded. On a national basis, a National Solid Waste Management Policy was passed in 2007 but compliance has taken time, and recycling rates are relatively low.
“People are still getting used to the idea of segregating food/kitchen and green waste in Penang. Generally, the efforts by the Penang State Government and the two municipal councils area well received but it takes some time for a greater level of compliance to develop,” says HT Khor.
Waste generators feel there are not enough incentives for them to make the effort, and large-scale end-of pipe solution are still needed at the landfill site, which still accepts daily truckloads of organic waste.
For Penang, and for Malaysia generally, it is still early days for organic waste treatment, though there is widespread agreement that food waste is an obvious win in terms of methane reduction and effective waste treatment. According to HT Khor, the Chowrasta Wet Market project sponsored by the Coalition was a key step in that development.