Guest Blog: Plastic Free July – a Malaysian take

Jul 15, 2022 | ISWA blog, ISWA news, Recycling and Waste Minimisation

Raelyn Chwee

Raelyn Chwee

Membership Engagement Manager ISWA

Plastic Free July is a movement that started in 2011 by the Plastic Free Foundation in Australia that works towards freeing the world from single use plastics. It later grew into an international campaign that garnered quite a lot of attention, especially in Asia.

Being from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I was always used to having our food and drinks served in single used plastics, especially when we get takeaways. We also pride ourselves on the popularity of our night markets and food markets, though meals were always served on plastic dishes or cups all year round.

Local supermarkets in Malaysia did start a small “no plastic bag day” campaign in 2009, but it only grew bigger when they later tied their initiative to the Plastic Free July movement.


Then in 2017, when Operation National Sword was announced in China, Malaysians became more aware about their plastic waste. The government and local NGO’s started campaigning on minimizing our plastic usage using the Plastic Free July campaign as a platform to educate the public on minimizing the usage of single use plastics. This encouraged the locals to bring their own tiffin containers and tumblers when they ordered take-out food.

Supermarkets also took this opportunity to finally stop providing any plastic bags for groceries – some even provided additional discounts if you brought your own bags.


The ISWA YPG Malaysian Chapter also used the campaign month in 2018 and 2019 to promote minimising the use of single use plastics. It did get positive feedback from the Malaysian public and helped raise awareness in urban areas in the country.

The question now is, has this campaign proven to be effective? We are now becoming more aware and have started questioning the how’s, why’s and who’s. Also, following from this campaign, other concerns have also arisen – such as why and how can we reduce plastic usage? Who is responsible towards making this change?


I am all for this great initiative which will hopefully create even more awareness for all of us to make a change, no matter how small or big. This should not just be a month long effort but a lifelong one on everybody’s part.

ISWA brings Waste and Plastics Pollution to the UNEA 5.2 stage

In the context of the resumed Fifth Session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2),  held from 28 February to 2 March 2022 in Nairobi, Kenya, a Resolution to negotiate a new legally binding global agreement to address pollution from plastics was on the agenda. ISWA presented a Position Paper on key considerations in the Resolution.

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