fomca logo13 MARCH 2021

15th March is World Consumer Rights Day. It is an annual occasion for celebration, impact and global solidarity within the international consumer movement. Each year consumer organisations throughout the world mark the day by joining to highlight and raise awareness of an issue that is important to consumers’ around the world.

The theme for World Consumers Rights Day 2021 is “Tackling Plastic Pollution. The WCRD event is organised and coordinated by Consumers International, which has membership of over 200 members from over 100 countries. The current President of CI is the President of FOMCA.

United Nations historic Summit in 2016 launched 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Currently, the universe is facing lots of major issues from pandemic to pollution. One main culprit contributing to pollution is plastic.

Goal number 12 of the SDG is about responsible production and consumption. The production and consumption of goods worldwide are nevertheless increasing as it is one of the major global contributor towards economy. Undeniably the inexhaustible production and consumption has contributed to the destruction of our mother nature both to the flora and fauna alike. Economic and social development has certainly impaired the planet earth at multilevel.

Plastics are something inevitable as it has been a boon in certain ways as we use it practically every day from our fork and spoon to components of electrical appliances and vehicles. Plastics have indeed changed our lives. As the population keeps increasing annually, so does the usage of plastics. The need for plastics have indeed increased tremendously since plastics have diversified from plastic to polymeric material which can be synthetic, thermoset or thermoplastics.

In Malaysia, besides, being one of the highest among six countries in Asia contributing to plastic waste, we are also importing plastic waste. In 2020 according to World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the estimate value of annual food plastic packaging consumption in Malaysia amounted to 148,000 metric tons. Malaysia’s annual per capita plastic consumption for packaging was almost 16.8 kilograms. Besides that, Malaysia is also a major importer of plastic waste, taking in 870,000 metric tons in 2018. This however has dwindled to 143,000 tons in 2019 as the government took stern and strict actions by closing illegal plants and imports.

Environmental problems related to plastic waste have become a major problem in Malaysia where it has been ranked as 8th among the top ten countries with mismanaged plastic waste in the world. A study estimated that Malaysia had produced 0.94 million tons of mismanaged plastic wastes of which 0.14 to 0.37 million tons may have been washed into the oceans. Our ability to cope with plastic waste is already overwhelmed. Only 9% of the plastic waste the world has produced has been recycled. Most ends up in landfills, dumps or in the environment.

In relation to the SDG 12, the producers will continue producing plastics as they know the need is always there. On the other hand, consumers need to play their role by restraining their dependence especially on single use plastics. Government has taken some actions towards imposing a nominal charges for plastic bags sold in supermarkets as well as convenience shops. So as not to pay the charges, retailers have been encouraging consumers to buy recycle bags at a reasonable price which the consumers can reuse.

There is a change in the trend during this Covid-19 pandemic when consumers were not allowed to dine in; many of them brought their own containers to ‘tapau’ the food. These conscious and responsible consumers invested in buying food containers which are recyclable. Workers took back the food and ate it in their offices. Many consumers also invested in buying reusable water containers to bring water wherever they go. In doing so, they did not need to buy bottled water which can be expensive and farther cause harm to the environment. Schools have encouraged the children to bring their own water. A little step like this will bring kindness to mother earth.

Government, service providers and consumers must play their parts and be responsible towards Mother Nature. Government must educate the public on the importance of taking care of nature for the future generations. They should use all available avenues to inform public how to avoid using plastic and the detriment it can cause if the public and service providers are irresponsible and keep on throwing plastic inconsiderately. School are the best place to educate the children; kids are courages these days to reprimand their parents who throw rubbish in the public. Besides that, there should be more recycling centre created to enable consumers to place their plastic waste or recyclable item. They should start with the Residence Associations (RA). This would definitely reduce recyclable and plastic from going to the landfill.

E-commerce has been the choice of consumers to purchase consumer items as well as food especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many would have purchased food items through online platforms. The plastic wrappers used to pack the goods is substantial. The e-commerce platforms as well as the sellers must invest in some Research and Development (R&D) to replace the plastic wrappers with some other recyclable covers or packaging such as cardboard. If at all the cardboards were to land in the landfill, the damage to mother Earth would be minimized as these boards can be easily recycled. If plastics-use is not contained, it will either end up in the landfill or in the ocean.

Supermarkets and hypermarkets should also eradicate the practice of using different plastic bags for different fruits vegetables or dry food such as onions, garlic and potatoes. They should come up with a system where consumers pay what they have in their bags, baskets or trolley. The plastic used will definitely end up in the landfill. Recyclable bags should be sold in all supermarkets, hypermarkets and convenient stores.

Companies producing food or other items must also play their role in reducing the usage of plastics. One company has committed itself to eliminate the usage of the plastic straw in the production of their Ultra-high temperature (UHT) range of food product and replace it with paper straws. Many other companies should follow this company’s initiative towards a world free from single use plastic.

Consumers International has announced that the theme for World Consumer Rights Day (15 March 2021), is ‘Tackling Plastic Pollution’. The campaign aims to raise awareness and engage consumers globally to adopt and promote more sustainable practices. Malaysia also has developed the “Malaysia’s Roadmap Towards Zero Single Use Plastics 2018-2030: Towards a sustainable future”. The vision of the Roadmap is towards single zero-single use plastic for a cleaner and healthier environment in Malaysia by 2030. Further the vision of the Roadmap is to take a phased, evidence-based and holistic approach by involving all stakeholders in jointly addressing single use plastic pollution in Malaysia.

However, awareness of the efforts by the government is low. In a study, only 44% of Malaysians are aware of “Malaysia’s Roadmap Towards Zero-Single Use Plastic”. Further only 64% are aware of the government’s effort on plastic straw ban. Generally, only 56% of Malaysians are concerned about the issue of single use plastic.

Plastic is here to stay as it has intertwined with our lives. More and more products are using polymer as plastic is a polymer. Plastic is inevitable in our lives but not the single use plastic. It is time for the government, companies and consumers to play their role responsibly by eradicating single use plastic from our daily lives. It is our duty to save Mother earth for the future generations.


Datuk Dr. Marimuthu Nadason