Waste management has traditionally dealt with downstream disposal operations. A life-cycle approach, by contrast, offers a new perspective that involves every phase, i.e., from the prevention and reduction of waste generated to the actual handling of wastes. Waste handling includes the collection, transportation, monitoring, and treatment (re-use, recycle, energy recovery, and final disposal, e.g., landfill) of wastes including the after-care of waste facilities.1
Unsafe management and disposal of ship wastes can readily lead to adverse health consequences. Humans can become exposed directly, both on ship and at port, as a result of contact with waste that has not been managed in a safe manner. Additionally, there is a risk of transforming ship-source marine pollution into land-based pollution.
Exposure can also occur via the environmental transfer of disease-causing organisms or harmful substances due to unsafe disposal. However, waste can be managed and disposed of in ways that can prevent harm from occurring.
Risks of harm arising as a result of improperly managed ship waste are increasing with the greater number of ships in service and the increase in habitation in port areas. Waste streams on ships include sewage, greywater and garbage, as well as effluent from oil/water separators, cooling water, boiler and steam generator blow-down, medical wastes (e.g. health-care wastes, laboratory wastes and veterinary-care wastes), industrial wastewater (e.g. from photo processing) and hazardous waste (radioactive, chemical and biological wastes and unwanted pharmaceuticals).2
Most collected types of marine waste in Malaysia in 2019 (in 1,000s)
What measures can we take to address maritime waste?
- National cooperation
Marine litter and plastic pollution are serious issues in Malaysia. The nation is working to enhance collective efforts towards long-term cooperation to address this challenge. At a regional level, Malaysia plays an active role as a member of the Coordinating body of the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA) and the ASEAN Working Group on Coastal and Marine Environment. These platforms are useful vehicles to strengthen national work on marine debris and plastic pollution.
- Policy implementation nationally
National policy-level intervention is also underway, such as the implementation of the ‘Malaysia Roadmap Towards Zero Single Used Plastics, 2018- 2030’ (October 2018).3
- Deploy innovative technology
Malaysia is also seeking opportunities to deploy technologies to address the issue of plastic pollution from enforcement to finding alternatives. We must recognise that apart from reduce, recycle and reuse, the focus should also be “replace”, which requires the application of new technologies and alternatives such as environment friendly polymers.
- Apply waste management hierarchy
The management of ship wastes must also follow the waste management hierarchy, that is, the priority order that ranks “waste prevention” as the most desirable option followed by preparation for re-use, recycling, other recovery operations and final disposal. 4
- Increase awareness and education
Increasing awareness, education, capacity and resourcing is also considered important to tackle marine plastic pollution at source. The country is working to enhance the cooperation among NGOs, the private sector and international partners, to address the issue holistically, together with the Government.