The Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) has lauded the move by British rock band Coldplay to sponsor a watercraft for the clean-up of Malaysian rivers, but called on more local champions to educate the public in preventing rubbish from entering the river systems.
MNS president Ahmad Ismail said such a gesture may be part of education or developing volunteerism but long-term volunteering, awareness and practice are needed to tackle plastic pollution.
"We have been talking a lot but we are just listening or watching and we need more actions.
"If we really think plastic pollution is an important issue then all agencies should come forward. I think the corporate sector can support this too," he told Malaysiakini.
The band has long been proponents of green initiatives and is now looking to stop garbage from reaching the ocean with the Interceptor 005, a machine built by Dutch NGO The Ocean Cleanup.
This will be the second Interceptor to be deployed in the country after the first one was received in August 2019 and placed in the Klang River.
The watercraft is locally built in partnership with Finnish firm Konecranes, at the MHE-Demag facility in Bukit Raja, Klang. The machine is expected to collect up to 100 tonnes of trash, especially plastic waste, on a daily basis.
But Ahmad said educating the public over the importance of managing plastic from entering the rivers and oceans is key.
"We must make the public understand more on why plastic cannot be allowed to go into the ocean.
"Plastic is needed in our daily life, until we change our lifestyle and systems we need to learn how to manage plastic, such as having recycling centres, rubbish traps and strict rules and regulations on its usage," he added.
He also questioned if enough was being done to curb the import of plastic waste.
"The government must look at the whole process from the import of it to the plastic waste factory, the treatment involved, water and energy usage, waste disposal and carbon auditing.
"Cleaning alone is not enough if we keep importing plastic, do not manage the plastic waste well and do not educate our public," Ahmad said.
The Ocean Cleanup founder and chief executive officer Boyan Slat said Malaysia is the first to receive the Interceptor 005 which is the first of two produced for series production and the first of the third-generation design, to tackle the world’s 1,000 most polluted rivers.
“Without action, there could be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050, which is why the Ocean Cleanup’s work is so vital.
"We’re proud to sponsor Interceptor 005 which will catch thousands of tonnes of waste before it reaches the ocean,” said the Ocean Cleanup in a statement recently.
According to Slat, plastic waste in the ocean eventually travels to ocean garbage patches where debris naturally accumulates in a vortex of circulating currents.
Since plastic waste can stay in the slow-moving whirlpools for years, lack of action to prevent pollution will increase the adverse impact on ecosystems, health and economies.
Since 2019, the Ocean Cleanup has announced its Interceptor solutions for heavily polluted waterways in countries around the world including Indonesia, Dominican Republic, Vietnam, US, Jamaica and Thailand.