Plastic Macau

"Plastic" is a perfect adjective to describe Macau undergoing a plastic surgery; it looks glamorous outside, but rotten inside. The city is reaching the highest GDP per-capita in the world by 2020, according to data from International Monetary Fund (IMF), but with the worst environmental policy compared to nearby regions.

Recently, I have gone back to rewatch a documentary, Plastic China (released in late 2016), filmed by Mainland Chinese director Jiu-Liang Wang, depicting the rapid economic growth of China (being the world"s largest manufacturing powerhouse), just likes a person gone through a plastic surgery, looks so glamorous (with growth and prosperity), but deep inside is decayed, with the unbearable amount of pollution coming from manufacturing companies and recycling all different types of plastic waste from all around the world (China used to be the world"s largest importer of plastic waste from developed countries such as Japan, South Korea, the US, Germany, and more), which is often ignored by the media and the government. The documentary reveals the horrifying scenes of workers in the poor working condition at the plastic recycling factories in the Mainland, polluting water, air and soil in the nearby neighborhood, putting their health at great risk. With a minimal salary they earned barely could afford to even send their children to school or support the livelihood of their family, simply because they didn"t have a choice but kept doing this dirty work for a living.

This situation in China can be the reflection to Macau for turning a blind eye to its poor waste management and environmental policy despite the economic growth every year.

Fortunately, a change is happening. On July 18, 2017, The China"s National People"s Congress announced the ban of 24 types of high toxin plastic wastes to enter China for recycling, effective from January 1, 2018.

The current plastic recycling rate in Macau is actually less than 1 per cent. According to the State of the Environment of Macau 2017 report published by the Environmental Protection Bureau (DSPA). In 2017, only 278,932 kg of plastics were actually recycled. 23 % or 117,462 tones of total solid waste (510,702 tones) was plastic waste. So to be exact, the plastic recycling rate is in fact at 0.24 per cent. Right now, all the recyclable plastic waste is shipped to outside of Macau for recycling, mostly the PET and HDPE bottles. With the new restriction on plastic waste importing to China, it is expected more plastic waste is going to send to the incinerator to burn and generate more toxin in the air as most of the plastics (PP plastic food containers, PP plastic beverage cups, styrofoam, plastic bags or more) that are still not collected for recycling with the current inefficient recycling facilities in the city.

It is a great shame to know that our public recycling bins are now treated as a general waste bin by the public so recyclable items never get recycled and all end up in the incinerator to put our health at risk. It is even disappointing to notice the recent new public recycling bins have wrong and misleading information on. For instance, milk cartons, coffee cups and plastic food containers are not collected in Macau for recycling by the government, but why the government thinks it is ok to run this fake recycling practice in the city?

The incompetent work done by the government finally triggers a group of concerned residents to start off a clean recycling movement in the city, called Macau Waste-No-Mall. The clean recycling movement, Waste-No-Mall, originally started in Hong Kong since 2016. Since March, every two weeks on Saturdays, they set up their recycling station, Macau Waste-No-Mall, at various residential areas in the city to encourage the public to go there to do clean sorted recycling. They then send all the collected clean recyclable materials back to local recycling companies for turning some of the recyclable plastic into raw plastic pellets and shipping the rest outside Macau for recycling). They hope by doing this can help raise public awareness of proper recycling and waste reduction, especially for single-use plastics.

Banning single-use plastics is also very essential in reducing the amount of plastic waste generated in the city. More and more countries have already announced the ban on single-use plastics, with the EU by 2021. Unfortunately, it is extremely upsetting to see the government still in a stage wasting time to battle whether charging MOP 1 for a plastic bag should be fair.

Bear in mind that your plastic waste will never really "go away;, someone else needs to take care of it for recycling or send it to the incinerator, or even some of it just ends up in our oceans, breaking down into microplastic, then gets into our food chain, which in the end is putting our health at risk. Refuse and reduce the use of plastic is the way towards a sustainable future for everyone.