BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Contractors hired by the Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation (JASTRe) have collected 20,000 bags of rubbish from the Brunei River over the past two months, mostly made up of plastic bags and bottles.

The trash was collected as part of an ongoing four-month campaign to clean up plastic pollution in Kampong Ayer, Brunei’s water village, a project initiated by JASTRe on April 16. 

The campaign targeted areas where rubbish accumulates on river embankments and underneath stilt houses such as Mukim Saba, Mukim Peramu, Mukim Burong Pingai Ayer and Mukim Tamoi, said the department’s acting director Martinah Hj Tamit.

File photo shows the ‘River Clean-Up Operation (RECOVER)’ organised by local NGO, Save Kampong Ayer, on December 7, 2017. Photo: Courtesy of Save Kampong Ayer

“There are 20 labourers working everyday in each mukim and they have to collect a minimum of 100 bags of rubbish per day. However, they often exceed that number, collecting between 130 to 180 bags of rubbish a day,” she told The Scoop on the sidelines of a World Environment Day event on Tuesday. 

“This is an indication of the [vast] amount of rubbish that we have out there.”

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The clean ups are currently tendered out to four contractors, each responsible for a specific mukim.

While there are no official statistics on the amount plastic pollution in Brunei, the volume is expected to be high, given the number of regular clean-ups conducted by local environmental groups. 

Martinah said:

What we are doing now is clearing all the rubbish that has accumulated for decades. At the end of the four month period, we will be installing an underwater fence/barrier to prevent rubbish from settling on embankment and under people’s houses.

Brunei is the highest per capita waste producer in the region, with each person generating an average of 1.4 kg of solid waste per day.

The government’s target is to reduce that figure to 1 kg by 2035. JASTRe statistics from 2015 show that of the 189,000 tonnes of solid waste disposed every year, 16 percent is plastic.

File photo from December 2017 shows volunteers from Green Brunei with over 200 bags of rubbish collected from Kg Sungai Kebun. Photo: Green Brunei

SAYING ‘NO’ TO PLASTIC BOTTLES

As part of nationwide efforts to reduce plastic pollution, the Ministry of Development has adopted a plastic bottle-free policy.

The ministry will no longer be providing drinks in plastic bottles at any of their meetings or events, and staff is encouraged to bring their own tumblers to refill their water at dispensers provided within their offices.

Minister of Development, YB Dato Seri Paduka Hj Suhaimi Hj Gafar (C), poses with senior officers holding tumblers at the launch of the ‘Plastic Bottle Free’ on June 5, 2018, in conjunction with World Environment Day. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop
Did you know?

• 1 million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute

• 13 million tonnes of plastic waste are clogging up global waterways

“We realised the detrimental impact plastic bottles have on our environment. That’s why for World Environment Day this year, the Ministry of Development launched its green ‘’Plastic Bottle Free’ initiative,” the JASTRe acting director said.

Martinah added that she hoped other government agencies would follow suit, switching from single-use plastics to reusable alternatives. 

‘If you can’t reuse it, refuse it,” she said.

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