Is Malaysia Ready To Go Zero-Waste?

Is Malaysia Ready To Go Zero-Waste?

Zero-waste” has been Googled more by Malaysians this year, than any previous year, only coming close in 2017. Saying our intentions to go green haven’t been verbalized a handful of times would be false. Hence, the question remains: how and where do we continue to go wrong and miss the mark?

Unfortunately, a large number of us still have the perception that climate change and environmental destruction is a far-future occurrence, rather than seeing it for what it really is: rapidly worsening in real time. In the past, Malaysia set the goal to divert 40% of waste from landfills and increase recycling rates to 22%; but that didn’t happen. In fact, currently, 90% of waste is reportedly disposed of to sanitary landfills, while only a meek 10.5% are said to be recycled. These numbers are a start, but they don’t suffice. We seek to understand why these goals keep being missed despite already having these conversations seemingly numerous times. Zero Waste Malaysia (ZWM) conducted a survey last year regarding recycling, and found a gutting result of over 55% of its respondents being uninformed about recycling methods.


Rapid urbanization, imported foreign waste, and a lack of awareness and education are all factors as to why we take one step forward and three steps back in our fight for a better environment. In 2018, Malaysian officials publicly stated that over 250 shipping containers of plastic waste were illegally imported from countries overseas. This knowledge increased the public’s alarm (rightfully so), but it has also been speculated to have led to control being tightened over imported foreign waste, closing down of illegal plastic recycling factories and the promotion of sustainable solid waste management. 

Currently, official numbers say that the overall recycling rate for Malaysia is 10.5%, but researchers believe that this number is mostly in regards to demolition and construction. This means that the numbers for recycling in the average household is much lower. Most Malaysians are aware of what recycling is on a general scale, but it’s likely that our knowledge ends there. If we asked ourselves and those around us to associate recycling bin colours with their respective recyclable items, how sure are we that the answers would be accurate? In all honesty, while we have good intentions regarding the environment, we simply don’t do enough. Recycling, climate activism, and a zero-waste lifestyle seem to be distant afterthoughts in most of our minds. 

In order to take the vital steps required to move towards a healthier planet, we need to begin implementing significant changes to our lives and habits. Without a mentality shift to precede these changes, our good intentions will remain just that - intentions. Unfortunately, the changes required to move towards a zero-waste country have to largely be from the root itself. The economic systems in place consist of a use-and-dispose pattern. Due to this, our linear economy has to be changed to a circular one. That being said, the responsibility doesn’t fall on the system alone. There are steps we can take that can fasten the process of making Malaysia a zero-waste country. 

The most accessible way we can begin our zero-waste journey is undoubtedly by composting. Composting allows us to contribute to the full-cycle of nature; we take so much from the earth, it’s only right to give back to the earth in the process. If you’re wondering how you can begin composting, we’ve got you covered! We recently introduced and discussed Composting For Beginners, and we highly encourage you to check it out to gain some insight and even a few helpful tips! We hope you embark on this journey with us at Reencle as we optimistically move towards a zero-waste community. 

If composting still feels like a tough place to begin this journey, we’ve also brought attention to a few local Recycling Centres you can check out here! We also recommend checking out the local organization Zero Waste Malaysia who have been fighting the good fight since 2016. If there’s anyone who can lead the way in this movement, they are a solid place to start.  

Every step you take in this journey counts, and we are right there alongside you fighting for a better, greener, and zero-waste Malaysia. All the small steps we take in our day-to-day lives are giant leaps for the future of our environment. 

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