Op-Ed by Branda Ng
Edited by Dilber Shatursun
Tzu Chi USA in partnership with Living the Change will be bringing you stories of real-life journeys and struggles in reducing our everyday impact on the climate. You’ll find these accounts inspired by honesty, sincerity, faith, a deep love for the Earth, and the desire to embrace compassion – the way Living the Change seeks to engage every individual.
Mak Kuan Siow, 68, and Liew Kwee Lan, 69, are neighbors in Taman Desa, off Jalan Kelang Lama, Kuala Lumpur. They spend a lot of their free time volunteering at the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation Malaysia’s recycling center in Taman Danau Desa, Kuala Lumpur.
The two women would sort out plastic and glasses one day, or tin cans and paper the next. They also separate black-and-white paper from colored ones as different colors of paper fetch different prices.
They also handle other recyclable items such as old clothing, bags, belts and bottles that people drop off at the center each day. These items would later be sold off, depending on their condition, or recycled into rags.
They do it voluntarily. None of them are paid for the time spent at the center. “I do not do it for the money. I do it to keep my mind active,” Mak said. “It is better than sitting at home and watching television,” said Kwee Lan.
Apart from being a drop-off center for recyclable items, the center also doubles up as an education center. The center serves a dual purpose – to collect recyclable items as well as educate the public on recycling. There are many different visitors, including groups from schools, colleges, universities, and even companies like banks.
Many arrive wanting to learn how to implement better and more mindful recycling practices at home. The volunteers are happy to show and instruct them.
The Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation is one of the biggest non-governmental organizations in Malaysia, with over 1,000 community recycling centers and more than 18,000 volunteers throughout Malaysia. About 480 tonnes of recyclables were collected in all its centers in the Klang Valley. And with a more enlightened public, we hope it will continue.