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.


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.

The cup I brought back from Bagan Lalang Beach
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.


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.

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.


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.


Floating in the Sea

I’ve always loved water. So, I naturally love the sea and all its mystical and magical qualities. Our cradle of life, it teems with biological diversity from the shallows to the cavernous abyss. Its mysteries continue to amaze and confound us till this day.

This week’s Haiku Horizon’s word prompt is ‘float’, so I thought about floating in the sea, which is something I like to do on a sunny day when the sea is calm.


Floating in the sea

Floating in the sea
Eavesdropping on sea creatures
Warm sun on my face

Khor Hui Min
7 September 2015

Dance of the Sea

It has been a really busy week. The short story submission deadline for the D.K. Dutt Memorial Award for Literary Excellence was yesterday (Friday). The word limit was 3,000 words, and I only started writing it on Wednesday. So, I dutifully added on to the story for two evenings, scrambling to wrap up the story hours before the deadline. But finish it, I did. And submitted, I definitely did. 🙂  I think of it as practice. Writing out ideas and expressing them, translating them from thoughts to concrete words, sentences and paragraphs. It is an organic process that I have come to enjoy. It is practice. If it gets selected to be included in the anthology, then great. If it wins me a prize, then fantastic. If not, then better luck next time.

Today, I just realised that I had not written the poem for this week’s Malaysian Writers FB group yet. The word prompt: ‘dance’. So here it is… hope you like it. 🙂

Tulipmania @ Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Dance of the Sea

A marvel of beauty and grace
In a garment of liquid lace
Expressive pirouettes; unfaltering
Enraptured in melody; pleasing
Existing only for the moment
In an intoxicating sea of movement
Living only to dance; shrouded in song
Where muses and sirens belong
Rhythmic figures of the deep
The ensemble that never sleeps

A lyric poem by
Khor Hui Min
1 August 2015

Ximen Arch, Taiwan

My computer is out of the ICU now, with a new replacement chip. =P  So, in my 24th post for the  Blogging A to Z Challenge, it is back to posting photos. I put together a photo essay of Ximen Arch, located along the north coast of Taiwan.

X for Ximen Arch

Ximen Arch is one of the first stops along the north coast shuttle bus route. It is a scenic route that travels the winding roads along the north coast beaches and pretty hills and villages.

Ximen Arch. Photo taken on 12 March 2015.
Ximen Arch. Photo taken on 12 March 2015.

To get to the north coast shuttle bus, which is a cute little mini bus, one can take the MRT to Tamsui Station, which is right at the end of the red line. The bus station is right next to the MRT station. Tamsui itself is a scenic location worth a visit.

Rocky beach in front of Ximen Arch. A white Chinese bridge gleams in the sunshine. Photo taken on 12 March 2015.
Rocky beach in front of Ximen Arch. A white Chinese bridge gleams in the sunshine.

If you get to the bus station really early, purchasing a day pass is worthwhile, as you can get on and off the shuttle bus as many times as you want throughout the day. The last bus back to the station should make its rounds around 4.30 pm. The bus goes from the Tamsui MRT station to Keelung Train Station (TRA), which is near the Keelung Port. There’s a night market there as well, worth a visit to sample some of the famous Taiwanese street food.

Seaweed abound in the rocky pools at the beach in front of Ximen Arch. Photo taken on 12 March 2015.
Seaweed abound in the rocky pools at the beach in front of Ximen Arch. Photo taken on 12 March 2015.

The shuttle bus stops at the following locations:

To find out more about the north coast shuttle bus and route, click here.

Military installation at Ximen Arch beach. Photo taken on 12 March 2015.
Military installation at Ximen Arch beach.
Bees and butterflies hover around wildflowers in full bloom everywhere in Taiwan. Photo taken on 12 March 2015.
Bees and butterflies hover around wildflowers in full bloom everywhere in Taiwan in March.

Growing on the sand beside the beach was a multitude of wildflowers. Blue skies and great weather led to good lighting to feature these humble little blooms.

Wildflowers bloom in the spring at Ximen Arch beach. Photo taken on 12 March 2015.
Wildflowers bloom in the spring at Ximen Arch beach.

Take Me Back to the Ocean

In my 15th post for the  Blogging A to Z Challenge, I wrote a poem on one of my favourite subjects – the ocean. It was a source of inspiration for me in my earliest poems, around 1997-2000.

O is for Ocean

Take Me Back to the Ocean

Take me back to the ocean
To the womb where Earth’s life sprung
To mingle with fish, turtles and cetaceans
In their home, from near to reaches far-flung

I yearn for the blue ocean
Filled with olden secrets profound
Always transforming; ever in motion
Its cycles are tied to our existence, all round

I dream of the turquoise ocean
The caressing of its waters a comfort
The sound of its rolling waves, a calming potion
Relaxing every fibre of my being without effort

I long for the waves of the ocean
Crashing and foaming on the soft, sandy beaches
Crabs drawn to the ebbing tides without volition
Along with a host of other little creatures

We gain so much from the ocean
Nourishment, subsistence, livelihood
So much it has provided through evolution
An integral part of the world’s neighbourhood

Indomitable, yet fragile, our ocean
So much we have harvested, gained from it
But so much we have exploited, without caution
Every year, every month, every day, every minute

What is to become of our dear, beloved ocean
Its delicate balance wrought from times prehistoric
An empty cesspool devoid of life; is there a solution?
Rein in profit-hungry polluters and educate the public

An original poem by
Khor Hui Min
18 April 2015

Ma'Daerah Beach, Terengganu
Ma’Daerah Beach, Terengganu


I have always liked the sun. Of course, there are times I wished it did not shine so very brightly at the most inappropriate moments, like when I am hiking up a hill on an exposed trail and forgot to bring my sunblock (as usual). However, without the sun, we would be cold and walking around in darkness, and the plants would not be able to grow, so we would starve. So, with all this in mind, I wrote a poem about the beauty of the setting sun today. 🙂

Photo taken at Northam Beach Cafe on 9 May 2014.
Photo taken at Northam Beach Cafe, Penang Island, on 9 May 2014.

Poetic style

This poem was written in the style of an Ottava Rima. It is an Italian poem made up of eight lines that rhyme. Each line consists of eleven syllables.

An Ottava Rima poem is made up of an octave with the following rhyming pattern:


The rhyming pattern for my poem is shown below:


(a) As surely as the sun shines high in the sky
(b) Illuminating the world with its warm glow
(a) The earth spins tirelessly as it bids goodbye
(b) The fiery orb hangs low as the waters flow
(a) For a moment it seems as if it would fly
(b) Escape the extinguishing waves that swallow
(c) Only to relent and sink into the night
(c) Bidding us adieu, as the moon blazes bright

Here are some more sunset photos I took a while ago. I hope you like them as much as I enjoyed taking them. 🙂

Sunset at Morib Beach. Photo taken on 31 August 2012.
Sunset at Morib Beach. Photo taken on 31 August 2012.
Sunset at Morib Beach. Photo taken on 31 August 2012.
Sunset at Morib Beach. Photo taken on 31 August 2012.