Compulsory Use of Biodegradable and Compostable Plastics in Malaysia
Malaysia has since enforced the compulsory use of biodegradable and compostable plastics bags and food containers in the Federal Territories.
Following this, it was reported that the price of plastic bags is expected to increase by three to sixfold, while food containers will cost about 30% more.
A bag of 100 medium petroleum-based plastic bags which previously would have cost only RM5, may be tripled to about RM15 for the biodegradable version.
A 100 pieces of polypropylene take away boxes cost RM17, but the biodegradable/compostable containers are priced at RM22.
This extra cost is to be borne by the traders who are up in arms over the ruling as they are prohibited from charging consumers for the environment-friendly packaging or increasing the price of their goods to make up for the increases.
Also, any business owners in Kuala Lumpur found breaking the law will face a maximum RM1,000 fine under the Local Government Act 1976, among other by-laws.
This law will also apply to business owners in Putrajaya and Labuan.
This ruling was enforced after it was found that the cheap and inert petroleum based-plastics bags were putting pressure on landfills, while the biomaterial or plant-based ones can degrade in about six months.
However, the supply of environment-friendly packaging and the process to certify them is an issue.
Federal Territories Ministry secretary-general Datuk Adnan Md Ikhsan said to date, 20 plastic manufacturers had expressed interest in supplying biodegradable/compostable plastic bags and food containers.
However only five manufacturers have been certified by Sirim Bhd with an eco-label.
“The 15 other manufacturers are waiting for their samples’ test results. All interested manufacturers are required to submit their documents to the ministry and samples to Sirim for testing, which will take at least three months.
“Due to the short time frame, the ministry will allow all 20 manufacturers to begin distribution after signing an agreement to comply with the standard requirements.
“All biomaterial plastic bags will have a “biodegradable stamp” by the ministry, while those certified by Sirim will have an additional ‘eco-label stamp’, complete with the certification number.
“We also have 15 distributors to help with the supply chain and do not foresee any problem with meeting demand,” he said.
However, Adnan said petroleum- based plastic bags could still be used for certain purposes.
“For example, in a supermarket or hypermarket, petroleum-based plastic bags may still be used to pack meat, fruits and vegetables but biodegradable plastic bags must be used at the check-out counters,” he said.
The same applies to wet markets and night markets.
The items can be packed in newspaper or petroleum-based plastic bags but the containers given to customers must be biodegradable.
“We have engaged business owners since June 2016, the last being this August to explain the initiative. There should be no more excuse. Enforcement was supposed to take place from January but it was it was pushed to September to give them more time.”