Environment Lifestyle Nature Weirdness

7 super-easy ways KL-ites can be less sampah

First…. a super fun-fact. Did you know that one of Captain Planet’s Planeteers is Malaysian?

Gi Captain Planet

“Gi – Hailing from Malaysia, Gi controls the power of Water.” – Wikipedia

Ok… now down to the serious stuff.

“Only 24% of Malaysians currently recycle, but almost 60% said that they’ll do more for
the environment if they knew how” – From www.recycle-easy.com.my

Last year we produced 22,000 tonnes a day and this year… it’s 30,000 to 33,000 TONNES A DAY – a rate we weren’t expected to reach until 2020 (finally we overachieved!). The average Malaysian does about 800gms of rubbish a day, but city people… 1.25kg – about 55% more. Don’t worry la, KL people… PJ people also sampah. In fact, the whole nation is quite sampah until even our cockles want to move somewhere else.

So why have our cities become so polluted? Well we hate to say it, but one of the main problems is UGAIZ.

The amount of sampah you’re producing is OUT OF CONTROL! And where does all this stuff end up?

Pemulung Cilik

Yep. Massive massive landfills. The one in Jeram that handles Selangor and KL was built in 2007 and originally projected to last us until 2023, but it’s now expected to hit capacity by 2015, maybe earlier. That means finding another landfill, setting up a whole new infrastructure, and costing the rakyat a few hundred million more. And these things leak into our water, our soil, and our oceans, and release about 18% of the world’s greenhouse gasses.

Of course, some of the rubbish ends up in our oceans, even making it hard to find MH370. And of course, scaring away our cockles.

nat-geo-trash featured image

And it’s only getting worse – despite the ‘awareness’ programs, despite hybrid cars, despite EARTH HOUR (don’t get us started) and despite more prominent recycling facilities. Thing is – recycling is not actually environmentally friendly – it only lessens the impact of what you’re already consuming.

The best option is always NOT TO CONSUME in the first place, especially if unnecessary.

So why do we throw so much away? Well, for many of us, the main problem is MAFANNESS. Yes, we want to be nice to Mother Nature, but we don’t want to wipe our bums with yucky leaves. Thanksfully, here at CILISOS, we believe that there’s no point giving so-called ‘tips’ unless people actually use them. So we did our usual research and came up with a list of 8 sapsap of things that anyone in Malaysian urban areas can do to reduce their sampah.

1. Throw a banana peel out the window, and prevent an explosion. No, seriously.

Reputation gained: -2 before explanation, hopefully +2 after.

Since it’s us, let’s start with something controversial. It’s often said that littering is unenvironmentally friendly. Take this girl for instance.

stop littering

Well, actually… it’s your definition of littering.

If it means throwing a plastic bag into the ocean, yes we agree.

BUT if it’s, say, throwing a finished cob of corn into a cornfield – well, mother earth would probably love that.

YES. we’re saying it’s OK to throw a banana peel out the window, especially if it’s into a drain, or an unseen part of nature. So the key thing here is to make sure it’s bio-degradable – which means generally anything made out of organic material – peels, paper, leftover food… etc. In fact, if you’re blessed with a garden, just throw it under the tree or into a plant pot. Versus… putting it in a trashcan?

YES. Here’s the thing… biodegradable waste is awesome cos given some oxygen, water, sunshine and a few weeks, bacteria will break it down into nutrients for soil, and release a wee-bit of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. HOWEVER, in a landfill, where it’s wrapped in NON-biodegradable plastic bags, and squashed so hard that very little oxygen, water and sunshine reach it, it instead degrades into ….METHANE.

Wait.. CO2!? isn’t that a greenhouse gas? Yes it is, but guess what – methane is 30 times worse than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. And one of the MAIN sources of methane – landfills. In fact, it’s not only unplanet-friendly, it’s also unpeople-friendly – cos huge pressure built up by methane gas sometimes causes EXPLOSIONS!

Worryingly, as far as we’ve asked the people we’ve interviewed, there are only pilot projects for methane harvesting in landfills in Malaysia, and no wide-scale implementation yet – so be careful buying reclaimed land yea? So why is this kind of earth-friendly littering not encouraged? Well, cos sometimes it ain’t pretty. So try to aim for somewhere not so visible when you do it.

MAFANNESS: 1/10. Just do what Malaysians have already been doing, except DON’T do it with non-organic materials and try not to throw it at a public place or a politician.

NEXT LEVEL: Try separating all your organics from your rubbish, and either throwing it into your friend’s garden, into a secluded part of the jungle, or even composting it in your apartment, like Tetra Pak’s Environment Manager, Manjula Murugesan. “We have this giant bin, so we just dump our organic waste in, close it tight, and send it to a farmer i know in Ampang who has his own compost pile”.

If you own a big garden, you don’t even need to compost. just dump everything on your plants and they’ll love you for it 🙂

You can find more composting tips here.


2. Stop using small USELESS plastic bags

Reputation gained: +5 with CILISOS

taken at the CILISOS office. TSKTSK

taken at the CILISOS office. TSKTSK

“She gave me wut”

“Free ma take lor”

“Hahaha chill la. What’s the big deal?”

“Can recycle ma”

This is definitely a pet peeve. Made even more so by statements like those. Plastic bags in general are avoidable, but the easiest thing to start with are these USELESS small plastic bags. They’re the kind you get to wrap one bottle of Coke, or a pack of ciggies, or a single curry puff… and are usually discarded in less than 5 minutes. WHY? So you can hold them with one finger, instead of.. your ….whole… hand.

Take these out of your daily life, and they open up a world of possibilities of rejecting stuff you don’t need. Napkins, straws, sos cili (not CILISOS)…

MAFANNESS: 2/10 You don’t actually need these things. You just need to say “No Thanks” and give it back to them.


3. BE COOL! Use tiffin carriers

Reputation gained: +7. Not only are you saving the planet, these things are like extra hipster-cred.

Tiffin Carriers in the Pinang Peranakan Mansion

You see these classic tiffin carriers in half the hipster cafes in town, and yet everyone tapaus using plastic or worse still – Styrofoam. Styrofoam is one of the WORST things you can use. it isn’t recyclable (in Malaysia at least) and it takes up ALOT of space. in addition, it kills birds and pollutes the ocean. But why YOU shouldn’t use STYROFOAM is that it’s a carcinogen, which means it can give you Leukemia or other white-blood cell related illnesses. In fact, many US states have already banned it, including California, and most recently, New York.

Besides, these things are actually MORE convenient than styrofoam since they don’t actually spill, and they’re alot nicer to eat out of. Or if you’re wary of hipster labels, just use TUPPERWARE lor.

MAFANNESS: 5/10 Buy at least two sets. One to keep in the car, and one to use, wash and replace.


4. Give away canvas bags at checkout counters


from Flickr user JustaSlice

Reputation gained: +8. This will warm the hearts of everyone around you, and possibly convince others to do the same.

Canvas bags are all over the place now… and we all buy them and do our part for the environment. The thing we love most about them is this – they’re reusable.


Problem is, we’ve seen people with truckloads of these bags lying around. Why? Cos they buy one everytime they forget to bring one – which is often. Realise that these bags take WAY more resources to make than a plastic bag, so if you’re gonna buy that many, you haven’t done diddly-squat for the environment.

6 things that are naturally poisonous but Malaysians eat all the time

The solution? Give them away! Bring a few extra to the supermarket next time, and if you see someone piling on the plastic bags, give them one or two of your canvas ones! People usually don’t reject free stuff, and you might just convert one of them into a fellow eco-conscious awesomenaut.

MAFANNESS: 3/10. Just remember to bring a few extra when you go shopping, and load a few in the car when you remember. You got so many ma after all.

5. Separate waste, and just leave it for the trash guys

Reputation gained: +4 with neighbours, +7 with trash dudes

image from azmandengkil.blogspot.com

image from azmandengkil.blogspot.com

Here’s how much people pay for your recycled stuff in Malaysia per kilogram

White paper – 60-70sen

Mixed Colour paper – 15-18sen

Aluminium – RM4.50-RM6

Glass – 5 sen to 40 sen – depending on whether it’s been washed

Plastics – dependent on type of plastics

You can find more details in this incredibly informative (but quite boring) PDF from the Penang Government.

Anyways, notice the gunny sacks on the side of the truck in the picture up there? It’s clear that your stuff is worth something to someone (this link says they earn up to RM20 a day from recyclables) – but only if it isn’t too hard to get (at these prices, can you blame them?). This is why at landfills, the scavenger rate is only about 1% of total volume of garbage (60% of it can actually be recycled). But outside your house…?

Start with the easiest thing – take your alluminium cans, squash em and put them in a giant bag (dry dog food bags work great for this). Might as well throw your glass in there too (just don’t break it). Next up, paper (old 10kg rice bags are great for this). Don’t need to wait for the OLD NEWSPAPER truck, you can leave it outside and the trash guys will most likely take care of it IF ITS CLEAR AND CONVENIENT.

Ideally, separate your garbage into four containers – Plastics, Paper, Aluminium and Organic. Mark it with a marker pen, and leave it out for the trash guys to collect. Sure, not all of it will be recycled, but it’s better than nothing.

MAFANNESS: 5/10. You just need to put aside four rice bags, and rinse your stuff before you put it in. Takes some getting used to, but it’s second nature to me now.


Some of your paper produce has elements of plastic, which makes it pretty much unusable for the trash dude. For instance, alot of milk containers not only have plastic caps, but are actually lined with plastic to make storage more sanitary. “What most people don’t know is that Multi-material can be recycled too,” says Tetra Pak’s Manjula, which is Malaysia’s leading supplier of similar packaging. “Our problem in Malaysia is not so much the technology – we have dedicated recycling centres. #1 is awareness, #2 is collection system.”

How do the public know where to bring their stuff? Just go to www.recycle-easy.com.my

ALL this stuff is eventually separated into these things.


Which can then be used to make things like envelopes, plasterboard liner, paper carrier bags, broom handles, roof
tiles and even garden furniture. But it’s important to note that recycling isn’t actually making it BACK into containers – so again, the best thing to do as always, is use less. One way is to…


6. Buy bigger packages

Reputation gained: +6

seriously... why do 200ml bottles of even exist?

Seriously… why do 200ml bottles of detergent even exist?

One of the most effective ways to curb trash is to reduce packaging. For instance, instead of buying a small 200ml bottle of detergent, buy a big 3 Litre one – it uses less plastic. Ditto milk, shampoo, snacks… etc. The goal here is to reduce the amount of PACKAGING.

The biggest culprit are individually wrapped things like sweets, mandarins, cheezels. Like seriously. There’s no reason for it, and the best way you can vote is with your dollar.

candy song meme

Better still….


This whole concept of buying containers each time you need more goo is soooo 2012. Instead, support the wonderful people at BYOB, who run a chain of 12 stores (most popularly this one in Damansara Kim) that lets you refill your detergent, shampoos, and other necessities into a used container.

Best thing is, they’re cheaper and of similar, if not better quality than their wrapped counterparts. How do we know? The owner, Wilson Lai, actually owns a business that supplies these necessities to other brands… and he’s running BYOB at a LOSS to encourage people to use less packaging.

BYOB Priceboard BYOB Bottles


“We went into this knowing we might not make money – but it’s in my bucket list. It’s using my factory, it’s using my machines, it’s using my workers for free.”

He also declined to mention the name of his main business, for fear that his customers might complain about the prices he’s offering. Yes, we’ll be doing a feature on him soon too. Goshdarn nicest guy in Klang Valley lor.

7. Learn to THREE-FOLD (Or at the most, FOUR-Fold)

Reputation gained: +6

Bare Necessity

Does your household seem to go through toilet-roll like keropok lekor? One of the reasons this might be happening is because people are scrunching instead of folding. Unfortunately, all toilet-paper in Malaysia seems to be made of Virgin-pulp – and that means it ain’t from recycled paper, unlike some other countries.

Worse still, alot of it is bleached, which is also bad for the environment. Why anyone would need something clean and pristinely white just to smear their doo-doo all over it is just strange, but also, strangely normal.

The average American goes through 23 rolls a year, which is assuming about 3 times a day using the American average of 8.6 folds! This contributes to 10% of all paper used.

Heh. Amerikans full of poop.

Anyways, just by learning to three or four-fold, 10 people can save one tree a year. So learn what all good poker players have spent a fortune learning – it’s okay to fold.

MAFANNESS: 4/10. Once you get used to it, you can save trees and money.

NEXT LEVEL: Use leaves, you barbarian!

koala bear leaves ass

*just kidding*. Washing is the best option (and is incidentally MORE hygienic).

 8. Refill your own water bottles

Reputation gained: +4 only if you tell them. But that would kinda make it -3 so overall +1… right?

refilled water bottles

To manufacture a 500ml bottle of water takes 1.5L of water. And bottled water is scientifically no safer than tap water (yes you can find contaminants in bottled water too). Plus, we all know how expensive it can be. So why then is there a growing trend among Malaysians for water in a bottle?

Technically, boiling it is safer, cos that gets rid of the microbes. So if you have a coupla bottles at home, just fill a bunch with boiled water, and leave em next to your door. Just grab one on the way out, and CONGRATS! You’ve saved 2 litres of water, and a wee bit of petrol as well. EACH time you do that.

Then, you can actually reuse the bottle as long as you wash it with detergent between refills. One big plus point? You can bring the TGV bottle back into the cinema.

UPDATE: Thanks to a RANDOM PASSERBY for pointing out that plastic bottles do release a small amount of chemicals into the water it contains over time, particularly in extreme heat. However, because it’s over time, it’s actually more likely to happen with bottled water you buy, versus filling it up every few weeks.

MAFANNESS: 2/10. Don’t throw away old bottles. Refill them at home, leave next to the door. Really that hard mehhh?

So….. how many of these tips do you think you can handle?



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