Living more sustainably – the plastic dilemma

If you read the newspapers or online news websites, or watch the news on TV, you would have noticed that pollution is a chronic problem affecting our natural environment, especially since plastic was invented.

Plastics everywhere

Plastic has been around for the last 60-70 years, but it has revolutionised our urban existence. Because plastic is so flexible and created to last such a long time, it has been an ingredient added into everything from clothing, cooking and catering equipment, to engineering and retailing materials. The problem is that nearly all plastic that has ever been created still exists today in some form, as they take a very long time to degrade. The chart below from BBC’s ‘Seven Charts That Explain the Pollution Problem’ illustrates clearly the lifespan of plastic.

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Due to consumerism, our lifestyles have largely become unsustainable, and we generate too much trash every day, to the extent that landfills are filling up way too fast.

Making Choices

So, what can we do as ordinary people to be more sustainable in our daily lives? Well, it’s all about choices. Yesterday, I participated in a beach clean-up at Bagan Lalang in Sepang, and after the activity, some of us were very thirsty, so we bought some drinks from a drink stall nearby. A friend thought out loud, “We just picked up all the trash on this beach. After that, are we going to generate more trash?” She was referring to the plastic cups. I said I was not going to throw the cup away, but bring it home, wash it, and reuse it. Reusing stuff is a very important part of a more sustainable lifestyle.

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The cup I brought back from Bagan Lalang Beach
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I stack up the cups and store them in my cabinet with all my baking stuff. Left of cups – stacked up containers with cookie cutters & other small pieces of equipment). On the right – cake boards.

Reusing Plastic Items

Plastic cups, plates, bowls, cutlery, etc. all can be taken home, washed, stored neatly and reused, at least for a few times. I like to keep them for outings, barbecues and parties. Once they are damaged, broken, change colour or warp in some way, then it is time to put them in the recycling bin.

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Reusable Cutlery, Straws & Containers

It is handy to bring your own set of reusable cutlery along with you to work or outings. In that way, you do not need to get the disposable type. These are very common now – they are made of extra sturdy plastic or metal, and come in their own containers or pouches. If the food seller offers disposable food containers and cutlery to you, you can politely decline them.

Similarly, bamboo and stainless steel straws are becoming more popular and more widely sold now. So, if you are the type that likes to sip your iced drinks through straws, it is a good idea to get yourself one.

Plan ahead. If you like to buy food on the way to work or on the way back home, it is good to have a few reusable food containers in the car or in your bag. For those who go out during lunchtime to buy food back to the office, having a reusable container in your office drawer, plus reusable cutlery, is a good idea.

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Bringing your own reusable container when buying food is an excellent habit. In this photo – nasi kerabu with half a salted egg.

If you like to buy coffee or drinks on-the-go, then it will be good to have a thermos or tumbler in the car or in your bag, so that you can do away with paper or plastic cups. Do you know that paper drink cups are not recyclable? The plastic waterproof lining of many paper cups makes them unrecyclable. If they are collected with paper and cardboard, they may actually contaminate the whole load because they are also dirty/stained – this will cause the lot to be sent to landfill.

For those who travel frequently, or like to have garden parties or picnics, a set of reusable lightweight crockery and cutlery would be ideal to have. I got this 46-piece blue picnic set at carrefour many years ago, and they have served me well.

Recycling Plastic Items That Can’t Be Used Anymore

Once your reusable plastic items cannot be reused anymore, it is time to put them in the recycling bin. I sort my recyclables the low-tech way in my yard – one bag for plastics, one bag for paper, one bag for metal items, and another bag for glass items. It takes me a few months to fill up a bag. When a bag is full, I will take it to a recycling bin.

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Remember that you have to clean your plastic containers, glass bottles and metal tins before you put them in your recycling bin. You do not want to contaminate the whole bin. Also, please take note that soiled/dirty paper cannot be recycled. Dirty paper (especially those stained with food) will contaminate all the paper pulp during recycling.

So, if you haven’t thought about living more sustainably, it is never too late to start. If you are already doing all the necessary steps for living a more sustainable life, then congratulations! Keep up the good work.

 

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Rainforest

Today is the first day of the Malaysian Writers FB group’s first-ever writing retreat. We were super excited when Tan Sri Navaratnam graciously let us use his Nava’s Retreat for our programme. We hope to make our writers retreat an annual or biannual affair.

The first piece I wrote this morning was inspired by the rainforest all around us. It is aptly entitled ‘Rainforest’.

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Rainforest

Undulating hills and valleys of green
Many millions of seasons have you been
Blanketing the earth with your soothing shade
Without which many would wither and fade
Provider of nourishment and shelter
Protector of many; they all matter
With your generous grace, we have survived
Conquered, diversified, flourished and thrived
With sincere hope, your mist-shrouded glory
Will survive for millions more years, surely

Khor Hui Min
23 August 2015

P is for Paddy Fields

For my 16th post for the  Blogging A to Z Challenge, I compiled photos I took at the famous Sekinchan paddy fields on 30 August 2014 into a photo essay.

P is for Paddy Fields

Paddy Fields in Sekinchan

Sekinchan is nicknamed the ‘rice bowl of Selangor’. The name Sekinchan literally means ‘village suitable for plantation’ in Chinese. Large plots of flat land are cultivated exclusively for rice planting year round and the farming methods are modern and mechanised. The area is well known for its high yield. There is a fixed time table for farming all year round, and you can see it here.

Seedlings freshly planted. Photo taken on 30 August 2014.
Seedlings freshly planted.

The months of March and September are seedling transplanting periods, when the seedlings are transplanted from their little trays into the paddy fields, so the rice fields will be all green. On the other hand, June and December are the harvesting periods, so the fields will be a golden yellow hue. As you can imagine, the place is a magnet for photography enthusiasts looking forward to taking nice scenery shots of paddy fields.

Seedlings freshly planted. Photo taken on 30 August 2014.
Seedlings freshly planted.

When I went on 30 August, the seedlings has already been planted. So, the farmers were ahead of schedule. 🙂 Visitors can visit the processing plants too, such as PLS Marketing (M) Sdn. Bhd. During the visit, one can purchase rice and other local produce.

Photo taken on 30 August 2014.
Scenic paddy fields of Sekinchan
Red flowers blooming beside the irrigation canal at Sekinchan paddy fields. Photo taken on 30 August 2014.
Red flowers blooming beside the aqueduct (irrigation canal) at Sekinchan paddy fields.
Busy worker in the fields at midday. Photo taken on 30 August 2014.
Busy farmer in the fields at midday, working in the scorching heat.

The modern mechanised farming methods used in the Sekinchan fields ensure the systematic running of operations and a consistently high yield.

Rice seedling transplanters. Photo taken on 30 August 2014.
Rice seedling transplanters.
Seedlings growing in the fields with a backdrop of a swiftlet house. Photo taken on 30 August 2014.
Seedlings growing in the fields with a backdrop of a swiftlet house.

There are roads connecting to a small village in the middle of the paddy fields, so visitors can actually drive beside the fields. There are also aqueducts (irrigation canals) beside the roads and cutting across the fields.

Traditional Malay kampong complete with coconut palms right in the middle of the paddy fields. Photo taken on 30 August 2014.
Traditional Malay kampung complete with coconut palms right in the middle of the paddy fields.

G is for Green

For my 7th post for the  Blogging A to Z Challenge, I decided to do another photo essay. This time, focusing on the colour green. And what are the best things that come in green? Why plants, of course. 🙂

G is for GREEN

Green, green plants

Today’s photo essay is about the trees and shrubs planted in agriculture. They are planted frequently in large scale plantations.

The first photo of the day highlights the iconic tea plantations of Cameron Highlands. When William Cameron, a British colonial government surveyor, and his companion Kulop Riau, went on a mapping expedition of the Titiwangsa range in 1885, Cameron reported that he saw a plateau, of an elevation of 4,400 to 4,500ft. However, he did not mark his find on the map. This plateau was confirmed in subsequent reports of the area. Nonetheless, the area was eventually named in his honour. Cameron Highlands was not really marked for development until Sir George Maxwell proposed that it be made a hill resort in 1925. In 1929, the son of a British administrative officer named John Archibald Russell founded a tea plantation, the very first in the highland resort. It is now known as the famous Boh Tea Plantation. Tea was a prized commodity during the colonial era, and the fame of Cameron Highlands grew during this period.

Tea plantation in Cameron Highlands. Photo taken on 4 June 2011.
Tea plantation in Cameron Highlands. Photo taken on 4 June 2011.

The second photo of the day features Gaharu Tea Valley Gopeng, Perak. The plantation is populated by gaharu trees, which are listed as endangered species by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). However, the owners claim that the 200,000 trees are from a special 12-in-1 super hybrid Aquilaria spp. Also known as Agarwood and Eaglewood, gaharu has medicinal properties that are prized in the Middle Eastern, Chinese and Ayurvedic cultures.

Gaharu plantation in Gopeng, Perak. Photo taken on 3 June 2012.
Gaharu plantation in Gopeng, Perak. Photo taken on 3 June 2012.

The third photo in this photo essay features the versatile banana. High in potassium and pectin, bananas are thought to be among the most widely consumed fruits on the planet. The fruits also contain magnesium and vitamins C and B6, as well as antioxidants. The banana is native to tropical Southeast Asia. Malaysian banana varieties are the Berangan, Mas, Cavendish, Rastali, Tanduk, Raja, Nipah, Nangka and Lawak. Click here to find out more about the banana varieties in Malaysia.

Banana plantation belonging to aborigines in Pos Buntu, Raub, Pahang. Photo taken on 27 June 2014.
Banana plantation belonging to aborigines in Pos Buntu, Raub, Pahang. Photo taken on 27 June 2014.

The last photo features the rubber tree. It is of major economic importance, and has contributed significantly to the development of Malaysia. The milky latex extracted from the tree is the primary source of prized natural rubber.

Rubber trees belonging to aborigines in Pos Buntu, Raub, Pahang. Photo taken on 27 June 2014.
Rubber trees belonging to aborigines in Pos Buntu, Raub, Pahang. Photo taken on 27 June 2014.