Sunday, 25 November 2007

Fish Eyes

So you think you know a thing or two about fishing? Just throw in the line and wait for the bite? Yeah, maybe if you are using line and bait. It's all luck and patience. Or maybe you can read the water and know where the fishes are? Well, I met a guy with a net on the Port Dickson beach and was quite intrigued by his skills. He can read the water and see where the schools of fishes are. Something about the fish coming up to breathe. He showed me how. And I tried. "There, there, I can see it", I shouted. Nah, that's not it, he said. He watches the water and everytime he throws the net, he gets some fish. But quite often the fishes seemed to behave as though they did go to school (that's his joke, get it? School of fish?) cause they seems to be able to anticipate his movements and zip off in the other direction as the net closes in. On a good day, he can get even up to two baskets (see the basket on his back) full of fish in one single throw. No kidding. Why does he do it? For the thrill, he says. So is there a lesson here? Ah ... mmmmh .... let me think about it a little.

So why was I in PD? I was one of the facilitators for a third workshop for an examination body looking at the futures of exams. If you want to know more, wait for our book. But is there a future for exams? Well, it will take a long time but what's coming on the horizon is a shift to less exams and more on flexible assessments. Ultimately, assessment will focus on the individual's talents and capabilities. Very one is different and assessment will move towards what the "exam people" call "profiling". Don't be alarm. It's not the sinister profiling you read about that targets specific groups of people as being security risk. It's an exciting development which we should all look forward to.

Ah, PD. I remember when we were kids in Muar. When we talk about going to the beach ... its PD. PD now is I think over-developed with too many hotels and resorts along the beach. There does not seem to be that much demand except during the weekends. I managed to rent a bicycle for an hour but I could not ride on the beach and the road was just noisy and full of speeding vehicles. So I walked on the beach (that's how I met the man with fish eyes, 2020 vision). And I came across this sign put up by the local authorities.

It says "Please Note : The damages to the bridge WILL be repaired. Any accident is your own responsibility". How long do you think the sign has been there? According to man with 2020 vision, more than one and half years. Wow! And how serious is it? See for yourself. Kids are on the bridge. Newly weds are having their photos taken. Another disaster waiting to happen.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Clothes made from plastic bottles

Take a good look at the clothes you are wearing. Ever thought it could have been made from recycled plastic bottles? The next time you see a crumpled dirty plastic bottle, pick it up and send it on the way to the recycling plant. Who knows, you might end up "wearing the bottle" one day.

They sort them, wash them, cut them up and then cut them some more into flaks, pack them in sacks and send them to some factory (in China?) to be made into clothings. According to the operator of the waste recovery plant, they are made into thick winter clothings.

A group of students and some staff from USM visited a waste recovery plant in Juru to learn more about waste separation in preparation for our Green Office blitz next week. The boss himself obliged with giving us a guided tour. So here's what we learnt. The waste paper are separated into three major categories :

(1) black and white paper - this is white paper with black printing on it. It is the second highest quality (after completely white paper which are mainly from the cuttings of commercial printers). In Malaysia this is mostly used to make high quality tissue paper. Yes, tissue paper. What about recycled paper for printing (you know, the A4 paper for your printer and photocopier?). Well, apparently the quality is not good enough for recycling into white paper (a lot of black spots). What? We can't get recycled white paper? I was totally disappointed. But I am not giving up. Even 50% recycled paper is better than nothing. Those comics printed on kinda yellowish coarse paper (you know the Chinese Lao Fu Zhi comics?)- yes, those paper are recycled paper made from this category of waste paper.

(2) white mixed colour paper - this is paper printed in colour which can still be washed to get "white" paper. If you see any colour magazine, tire it up and look between the printed sides. If you see white in between then it is white mixed paper. Can be used for making low quality tissue (the operator said those "tissues" you find in Chinese restaurants). Also used for making brown paper or cartons. If you see printed brochures or flyers, turn it over and if it is white on the other side than it falls in this category. The brown cardboards in packing boxes (without printing) also falls in this category.

(3) mixed colour paper - this can only be used for making cartons or brown paper. Includes those pink, green, blue, yellow colour paper (for lecturers, the pink for SKT forms) and magazines.

Then of course there is old newspapers which a category by itself. These can be recycled in newsprint.

Other things you should know. If there is a plastic layer on the page (such as on the cover of magazines), it cannot be recycled. The plastic won't melt on the waste paper is boiled during the recycling process. The trick is to tire the page and if there is a plastic-like layer it will show. And those envelopes with windows - the plastic should be removed.

Tissue can also be recycled but tissues are already very low quality and have very few fibres. Even if you sneeze and blow your nose full of disgusting mucus into the tissue, it can still be recycled (according to the operator). They will be boiled and all germs will be killed. Disgusting.

Click on the picture above and see if your can find the two women sorting the waste paper? Can you identify the various types of sorted paper in the huges bags?

Burning question : is it worth our effort to have the USM staff and students separate the different types of paper?

See the pile on the left? That's about half a metric ton (500 kilograms) of mixed paper. You will be able to get about RM100 from the recycling agent for that stack. If you sort it, that stack of black and white paper can fetch RM250. Yeah, its worth it but I think doing waste separation should be a habit. In developed countries, if you don't sort your waste everything will be considered thrash and you will have to pay more to get rid of it.

The sorted paper are compacted into bales for transport to the paper mills. There are 2 or 3 such mills in the northern region but no one makes recycled paper for printing.

Hey, who says it it all thrash. See the guy enjoying a "quiet" time reading (old) newspaper?
Behind him is the machine to compact and make bales of sorted paper.

Keep a date for Green Office activities : 28th Nov 2007 at Eureka Building, 9.30 am for PPKT. 29th Nov 2007 at Corporate and Sustainable Development Division 3.00 pm. 30th Nov 2007 at Canselori with VC Office, Registrar and Bursar 3.00 pm.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

My Green Diary

I tried to be Green today.

7.24 am - Went bicycling with my youngest daughter. Took her to the padi fields across the road. The morning sun was beautiful, playing softly with the lush green fields of young padi stalks. If you are lucky you can see fighter jets taking off or landing as the narrow gravel road cut right across the end of the RMAF airfield runway. There is no traffic at all on these country roads. You get to enjoy the view of the hills in the distance and even see the top of KOMTAR. The only drawback is the smell of pesticide and weedkillers. The International Rice Research Institute has acknowledged that advances made in double-cropping and higher yield varieties have had negative impacts in terms of the pollution from chemicals used to control pest and weeds and the higher amount of fertilisers used. And did you know that padi fields generate alot of methane, a Green House Gas, when the fields are flooded? But we Asians can't do without rice right? Ah, but urban growth is encroaching into our rice fields. My daughter asked "what's going to happen to our food?"

8.24 am - made it back for breakfast. Asked my daughter if she wants to do it again? "Not tomorrow" she said. She needs to catch her breadth. Makes me feel that "hey, I am doing alright, (stamina-wise)".

9.00 am - straight to my computer to work on the budget for Kampus Sejahtera for 2008. Answer emails. Gave instructions to my RO and other staff to make preparations for the Green Office activities we are organising end of this month. I decided that I won't drive to the office this morning. That's one more green point for me today.

12.10 noon - went to cut up the yam, the meat, the mushroom, garlic, shallot in preparation for dinner. Told my wife I would be late this evening and she would have to take over the cooking.

12.30 noon - took a quick bath. Filled up a tumbler with water to bring along with me. Small foldable umbrella. Put them in a bag and ..

12.51 noon - started walking to the bus stop

12.56 pm - arrived at bus stop at Teluk Air Tawar

12.59 pm - got on the RapidPenang bus heading for the Butterworth Jetty. Fare RM1.50. As I sat down I noticed the sign on the window saying "Please keep the ticket for inspection". Damn, the driver didn't give me a ticket. I debated whether I should go up to claim my ticket or face getting jailed? I decided to be a green activitist - if the ticket inspector were to ask for my ticket I would claim that it is "against my principle to take the ticket because it generates rubbish". What do think? Do you think he will buy it?

1.24 pm arrived at the Jetty, paid RM1.20, waited about 10 minutes for the ferry. Boarded and contemplated getting a bun for lunch. Didn't look too appetising.

1.50 pm (or thereabouts) - got off the ferry. No time to eat my favourite beef noodle soup at the Penang Island side of the Jetty. Too rush to check the signboards so asked a passing RapidPenang staff which bus to take to KOMTAR. He pointed to two buses and said anyone of them. I had contemplated whether I should go and support the poor Penang Yellow Bus. I decided my better bet was RapidPenang. Got one, confirmed that it is going to KOMTAR, paid RM1.00 and the bus left almost immediately. The Yellow Bus was still bleeping for passengers (they wait until they have almost a full load before leaving).

2.10 pm - the bus stopped right in front of an economy rice shop which seemed to be enjoying brisk business.
Oh, the RapidPenang buses seems to stop anywhere when the passengers "ring" the bell. So, I had my economy rice, easy on the rice, and three vegetables - cost RM3.30 plus iced barley (RM0.80). Still pretty cheap huh, lunch in Penang?

2.24 pm - already at the foyer of Auditorium A, KOMTAR. Registered and chatted with some old friends from my days working at the Municipal Council of Penang Island.

2.31 - 5.05 pm - listened to two presentation on greening the buildings organised by PUSPANITA (organisation of lady government servants and wives of senior government officers). Graced by the Chief Minister. Did I get anything out of it? On a scale of 1 to 5, I would say may 2. I think it is an excellent effort but it is an opportunity lost.

5.06 pm - looked at the tea spread out; grabbed a curry puff and headed for the bus stop.

5.20 pm (about) - boarded a mini RapidPenang for the Jetty. Ran to catch the waiting ferry. Sometimes you may have to wait quite a bit for the passenger ferry. I think the Penang Port Authority is more focussed on making money from the vehicular traffic.

6.10 pm (about) - slight drizzle and huge puddles of water at the Butterworth bus terminal. Didn't know which bus is going my way. Asked one bus driver and he said the other one. Some idiot at the back of the bus keeps pressing on the bell to make the bus driver stop quickly (instead of at the bus stops) and the irritated driver obliges. It happened a few times during the journey. Is this the new protocol - stop whenever the passengers presses the bell? As the bus approached Air Tawar and the traffic thinned out, the driver picked up speed. I was surprised because so far they seemed to be very calm and controlled. I was seated right behind the driver and saw the speedometer touch 80 kph. And the speed limit on that stretch? 60 kph. One down for RapidPenang.

6.30 pm - walking back to home sweet home. Got a phone call almost 50 metres from the house from my wife asking whether I needed a lift. Thanks, honey.

9.53 pm - end of my Green Day. Hope you will also have a green day. My next adventure will be to take the public transport to USM.