What I Want to Learn at Malaysia’s 2nd Zero Waste Festival

Updated: Oct 22, 2020

I recently read this article which asks the question ‘How did we let plastic bags get everywhere?

That’s a really good question.

We have been living side-by-side with plastic and not thinking twice about the potentially harmful effects it may bring.

Well, it’s not a potential threat anymore. It is a threat.

It has killed marine lives most of all, and it’s probably killing us slowly.

The article began with a retired nurse’s memory of doing “grocery shopping at a small store” and said that “it was all paper or cloth bags, and fish and meat would be wrapped in butchers’ paper. There was no plastic.”

That was in the 1940s.

What happened since then?

1965 – Plastic bags were patented in Sweden 1979 – 80% of European supermarkets were using plastic 1980 – Plastic is widespread in the US, aggressively pushed by the oil company Mobil 2002 – An estimated 4-5tn bags were made 2002 – Plastic bag bans in parts of US, Bangladesh, China, Israel, South Africa and more 2019 – Sales of trash can liners increased by 120% after bag bans

The irony is that we realise how harmful plastic bags are, yet we continue to use it in our day-to-day.

“While bans led to a 40.3m-pound reduction in plastic waste, that was offset by 11.5m pounds of waste caused by people using new bags instead of reusing carriers”

Thanks, Convenience.


One of the recent environmental news sees YB Yeo Bee Yin waging war on plastic waste brought in from other countries. She said enough is enough and she’s sending them all back.

I think the awareness of going plastic free, zero waste or being more mindful with our consumption has generally grown but primarily in the major urban cities or states, such as Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Selangor.

I don’t think people in places away from urban development such as my father’s hometown in Kuantan are aware of or actively engaging in the plastic problem.

But even in the urban cities, the practice is not widespread even though it seems that more people are into it.

Just go to your local restaurant and you can still see plastic straws being served with drinks.

And let’s not get me started with vegan options!

Despite that, there are groups of people who are doing their best to push this agenda forward.

A couple of years ago, I attended Malaysia’s First Zero Waste Festival and I got to meet Bea Johnson, the so-called queen of zero waste.

The second one is happening this weekend at The LINC KL.

Besides restocking my essentials, I plan to listen to a few talks that sound interesting.

i got this logo printed on my shirt at the first zero waste festival two years ago



This will be a presentation about the facts on the climate crisis. I think it won’t be new information for me but I’m sure there’s something new to learn regardless.

Speaker: Baida Hercus, Leader of Climate Reality Project and President of Free Tree Society


This is a topic I’m interested to learn more. I’m skeptical if this can work on a large scale. But I guess I’ll find out if stakeholders from various industries can work together to transition into a circular economy.

Speaker: Nicholas, Head of Design at Biji-Biji Initiative


Based on the description of this talk, I’m guessing this will focus more on the plastic waste in Malaysia rather than that from 19 countries. Greenpeace Malaysia has been conducting field investigation on the broken system of recycling and how it impacts Malaysian society.

Speaker: Heng Kiah Chun, Greenpeace Malaysia Campaigner


This topic implies that we will continue to live in city landscapes and not move off-grid or a potential dystopia/utopia where we are more connected with greenery instead of metal and glass. If that’s the case I’m not sure if that’s the future I’d like to be in.

But I digress. This talk will highlight how the circular economy and zero waste innovations are currently being developed within the F&B industry that will help to reshape how we produce, package and transport food.

Speaker: Steve Fernandez, Category Manager of a luxury fine-food retailer with a passion for sustainable design innovation

I’ll most likely be taking notes and do another write-up on my findings, so stay tuned 😉