A Community Approach to the Plastic Waste Problem

Plastic use is as easy as drug-use. They are light, easily shaped, strong and inexpensive. Their ability to guard against contamination makes them useful in sterile medical environments such as hospitals or even to store away leftovers.

We know they are bad — for the earth, animals and humans. Yet, the world can’t live without plastics. But are plastics really all that bad? Or it is our behaviour that gives them a bad reputation? 

The Biji-Biji Initiative through its Beyond Bins Project invites you to consider recycling and better plastic waste management. 

As project community leader Nur Nilam Sari Jusdean points out, “Plastic can be useful, but we need to moderate its usage.” 

This project seeks to give plastic waste a newfound value while promoting alternative sources of income to underprivileged communities. 

The recycling machine, inspired and built according to the open-source blueprint of the Precious Plastic Project by Dave Harkens, is placed within the community. It sits in the studio of social enterprise Bohomys, which is a familiar space for the community and in turn helped to bridge the gap when Beyond Bins first started here.  

At the moment, only Type 2 and Type 5 plastics (such as straws, detergent bottles and water bottle caps) are suitable for the machine. The new products born from the process include pots and coasters. 

Biji-Biji’s Chief Executive Officer, Juliana Adam tells us, “There was a bit of resistance at the beginning as they were not sure if it they could actually make any money. But after seeing their friends earn quite a good income, they were more acce

RM2,889 in income has been generated through this project. 

Biji-Biji’s Social Return on Investment (SROI) reporting with Social Value UK International revealed that every RM1 spent on Beyond Bins offers a return on investment of RM7.32 for both the community and environment, making it a highly impactful and rewarding model to be replicated in other communities.

Besides providing small-scale plastic recycling solutions, Beyond Bins also aims to install a recycling mindset. Thus far it has exposed 1,072 individuals to plastic awareness and collected 437 kg of plastics for recycling. Sari, who is the youngest of the 13 community leaders, is happy to report that plastic waste in the neighbourhood has reduced significantly — a welcomed change and an indication that this project is headed in the right direction.