Brunei Can Be A ‘Zero Waste’ Country

Posted on  21/06/2012  |  Media Centre

Written by Jimi-Ha on 21 June 2012.

Bandar Seri Begawan – Brunei Darussalam is well positioned to be a model of how a country can have healthy people and a healthy economy, according to Ms Annie Leonard, who was one of the keynote speakers at the National Environment Conference at The Empire Hotel & Country Club yesterday.

Ms Leonard, who is the author of “The Story of Stuff” and the director of the 20-minute web film of the same name, which has generated over 10 million views, shared three recommendations on how to get started on achieving a “Zero Waste Brunei”.

According to her, the first step is composting, which can reduce waste by 70 per cent. “It’s easy, it’s cheap, and it’s efficient,” she said, citing the fact that she has a box of worms at her own home where she disposes all of her food waste.

The second step is to “design waste out of the system”, she said, explaining that this includes the getting rid of non-biodegradable containers like plastic bags and disposable bottles, and replacing them with environmentally-friendly alternatives such as reusable bags and bottles.

The third step, meanwhile, is to ensure there are no incinerators.

“Don’t build it, because (when you do so) you are locked into continuous waste production,” she said. “Incinerators are absolutely incompatible with zero waste. There are safer, more economical and sustainable ways (of disposing waste).”

She also stressed the importance of protecting both people and nature from harmful chemicals and suggested body burden testing, which she explained would help to see which chemicals are increasing and decreasing in community.

On her next point, Annie touched on the need to nurture non-consumer values and opportunities.

“Remember what really makes life valuable,” she said, noting that this does not equate to the latest iPhone, technology, fashionable products or “buying stuff” but rather things such as family.

Ms Leonard was well-received by the conference’s attendees, as could be seen from the enthusiastic applause that followed her address.

She then took part in a session of discussion, which was moderated by Delwin Keasberry, the Brunei Programme Manager of Asia Inc Forum, the organiser of the National Environment Conference.

Mr Keasberry posed a question with regards to the notion of non-consumerism, and asked how one is supposed to find balance in this particularly when one does enjoy shopping.

“Be aware that we are bombarded with messages for new stuff, but that we need to make our own decisions on it,” she answered.

“If we don’t pay attention we just get more and more stuff.

“The more stuff we get then begins to undermine our happiness.

“When you want to buy something, be aware and think, does this really help me or does it just take me onto the consumer treadmill?”

Asked what she would do with 100 dollars, she responded: “I would treat some people to dinner and talk about how we can work together for the environment.”

Asked what she would do with one million dollars, she answered: “I would treat a million people to dinner and talk about how we can work together for the environment.”

Questions from the floor were also entertained, the first of which asked exactly how we can strike a balance between consumption and environmentalism.

Ms Leonard highlighted that if we stopped consumerism, we would have a big problem, and hence we need to think of a transition.

“The question is not if we will change, but how,” she said. “We will change, but are we going to change by design or by disaster?”

According to her, it all comes down to developing an economy that can benefit both the people and the planet.

Another question raised pertaining to open burning in Brunei, and how it can be dealt with, to which Ms Leonard said: “For this you need government leadership, you need good recycling and reuse programmes”, citing the Philippines as being a positive example.

“One of the best things about working about waste is that it’s solvable, if you have government, business and people onboard, then it’s doable,” she added.

Ms Leonard was also asked by a student on how to influence a “green community” here in Brunei.

“I find garbage a fascinating ambassador issue,” she said. “I spent 10 years going to India, the Philippines and Indonesia, asking people there about problems they faced, and the most common thing was open burning.”

She said that there a lot of examples in the region on where this issue of open burning has been dealt with, which people here can learn from.

“So pick a solution, tackle it, and show how and why it is possible,” she said.

Mr Keasberry returned with another question to wrap up the session, which touched on both corporate and individual points of view, asking: “If you’re asked, `Where’s the money in this?’, how do you respond?”

Ms Leonard said: “We’re so lucky because there really are a lot of solutions that do save money … There are lots of ways to reduce waste, energy and water use and save money.”

Taking a “gigantic multinational company” called Interface Carpet as an example, she said that they, at one time, used a “gigantic” amount of fuel as part of their work, and as a result, produced huge emissions.

She explained that the company implemented sustainability goals and, as a result, reduced these emissions.

“The owner of the company, Ray Anderson, said that if they can do it, anyone can do it,” she added. “The time of thinking that business is our enemy is over. We need the business, government and public. It’s all hands on deck.”

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin