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.


Anonymous said...

Commendable effort that must be emulate by others, no less campuses in Malaysia. Let us follow the lead. Thanks for the eye opener! DzulRazak

Anonymous said...

...sorry for the typo - should read 'emulated' (less one word can also be a 'saving' :) DzulRzak

Lik Meng said...

Pauline talked to a gentleman from a paper mill and this is what she found out :

"none of the company in whole of Malaysia produce White recycled paper. It is due to the expensive cost of bleaching technology. He said their company had tried to produce this kind of paper, but it was not sucessful because they found some spots on the paper. It cannot be full white.

He also said in Malaysia only Sabah Forest produce white paper but it uses virgin pulp, not the recycled paper.

The recycled paper that they collect are mainly turned into tissue paper, carton boxes, and some recycled paper but as brown paper."

nuhar said...

oo plz help me. im in kelantan and i cant find a single recycle station here in kb. i have tons of things to recycle but no place to do so.


anyway, is there any recycling project in usm kubang kerian, because people here really need one (not saying kelantanis are not really care about nature, but sheesh seriuosly they do!!)

Anonymous said...

Interesting article

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lik Meng said...

dear Nuhar,
You did not leave a return address (email, that is). Please contact me directly by email ( so that we can work on your ideas.