the ugly truth is buried

Landfills are a stop-gap solution. They are horrible places. As a society, we should be ashamed of them. In many countries, they are poorly managed and allow poisonous chemicals and plastics to leach into the surrounding soil and groundwater system. Even biodegradable materials sent to landfills emit methane (the most damaging Global Heating gas).

Ultimately, landfills create problems for future generations: plastics survive for hundreds of years, “bio-degradable” materials cannot break down in the absence of UV light, and many materials do not degrade at all…

the hard facts

  • Plastic production is increasing annually with 50% of all plastic being produced within the last 15 years
  • 50 billion bottles are produced annually globally
  • Less than 6 percent are recycled
  • 8.8 million tonnes of plastic reach the ocean every year. This is the equivalent of 5 garbage bags of plastic trash for every foot of coastline in the world
  • 1 tonne of plastic for every 3 tonne of fish by 2025.
    1 tonne of plastic for every tonne of fish by 2050 if things continue
  • 95% of plastic in the ocean is micro-plastic (smaller than 5mm and not easily seen by the human eye) Only 5% is the visible plastic we see on beaches / riverbanks
  • Plastics release additives into the water and food supply e.g. BPA and BPS (bisphenol A and S), which are poisonous to the human body
  • Plastics release toxins, e.g. PCB’s (polychlorinated biphenyl) leading to reproductive disorders, increasing the risk of diseases and altering hormone levels
  • Plastic is known to have directly affected over 700 species of wildlife
  • Estimated 50 gigatonnes of carbon will have been used producing plastic by 2050. That’s 47 times the annual emissions of coal plants in the US

cry me a river

It brings tears to the eye when we consider how many rivers around the world now look like the one in the video.  In Malaysia, we have 189 river basins, and four of our rivers exceed 400kms.

These waterborne highways have carried people, their wares and their stories across the length and breadth of Malaysia.  Our mighty Pahang river has provided a vital trade link between Peninsula Malaysia’s East and West coasts since the time of the Malaccan Sultanate and even today is our largest source of fresh water.

Our rivers also support a rich eco-system of plants, animals, aqua-culture and many industries that use water to function.  Yes, they directly contribute to our gross domestic product, too.

So, healthy rivers mean a healthy and productive society.  Looking after our rivers and the environment around them - for example, keeping lush vegetation around rivers mitigates flooding -  has benefits for each and everyone of us as we draw our sustenance and mental well-being from them.  

And there is hope!  Human ingenuity and resourcefulness have proven that even the most polluted rivers can be revived. Taiwan, Korea and Japan are examples of how we can restore badly damaged river systems.  Once some of the most polluted countrysides in the world, these nations now boast pristine and gorgeous waterways.

We mustn’t forget that many rivers eventually end at the sea, so whatever pollutants they carry will eventually be deposited into the oceans of the world, and be consumed by, or kill and contaminate, sea life.  And some of this sea life ends up as food on our plates.

The Watertree Project was created to help clean up Malaysia’s rivers and public spaces, and to prevent as much waste as possible from reaching our rivers and seas.  We hope to increase recycling of waste material by forging strong relationships with recyclers in the Klang Valley and by increasing collection points for discarded products.