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Saturday, 01 July 2017 00:00

City Mayor’s Visit to Tzu Chi Recycling Centre

Written by  Low Hai Loon, Klang / Translated by Yip Sook Ying

Mayor Yeoh (2nd left) was attracted by the reuseable baskets used to collect recyclables, which were converted from discarded fishing baskets. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]

Pulau Gaya is an island ten minutes off Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. An island of biodiversity, it is a favourite tourism spot. However, the threat to this biodiversity is the oceanic pollution by floating rubbish and rubbish dumped on the island. To overcome this problem, the City Council and Tzu Chi volunteers are planning to work out a recycling programme in Pulau Gaya. Having learnt about Tzu Chi Recycling-cum-Educational Centre in Pulau Ketam, the Mayor of Kota Kinabalu, Yeoh Boon Hai, visited the Centre accompanied by Tzu Chi volunteers and his officers on July 1, 2017.


Accompanied by three of his officers and Tzu Chi volunteers, the Mayor of Kota Kinabalu, Yeoh Boon Hai, took a 30-minute speedboat ride from Port Klang to Pulau Ketam. From the jetty, the convoy of visitors took off on foot to the Tzu Chi Recycling-cum-Educational Centre. On the way, Mayor Yeoh was attracted by the reuseable baskets converted from discarded fishing baskets to collect recyclables. These baskets put along the streets in Pulau Ketam make it easy for the islanders to drop recyclables. Volunteers were quick in responding and shared the recycling effort with Mayor Yeoh and his officers, who were later seen discussing the possibility of setting up similar recyclable collection spots in Pulau Gaya, Sabah.

Under the guidance of recycling volunteers, Mayor Yeoh and his team visited every corner of the Centre. Mayor Yeoh was inquisitive about the operation of the Centre, including how recyclables were transported from the island to the port. Volunteers explained that the transportation was dependable on the tidal current. When the tide is high, angling of boats is brought closer to the jetty, making transferring of recyclables easier and hence, better utilization of manpower. Mayor Yeoh highly commended the effective collaboration between the local community and Tzu Chi volunteers, where the volunteers’ experience and fishing community’s knowledge of tidal current have led to the smooth operations of the recycling effort.

A Tzu Chi volunteer from Sabah, Lee Yun Ming, who accompanied Mayor Yeoh on the visit, related that the Mayor had been working closely with Tzu Chi in planning and co-organizing medical outreach and recycling activity with Tzu Chi in Pulau Gaya when he was a Director with Kota Kinabalu City Hall. He also visited and sought advice from Master Cheng Yen in Taiwan in the company of volunteers.

After the visit by CEO of Tzu Chi KL & Selangor, Echo Chien, to Pulau Gaya early this year, long-term plan on environmental protection was again deliberated. Yun Ming viewed this as a significant step, where besides recycling, health education and charity projects would be initiated; and at the same time, motivate more local residents to serve as volunteers.

Some enlightening commentaries

“Due to lack of environmental awareness among the islanders, some thought that I was facing some financial difficulties therefore I had to collect recyclables to make ends meet.”

“At the beginning, most islanders treated those recyclable collection bins as rubbish bins.”

“We made many visits to our friends, enquiring about borrowing their boats to transport recyclables to the mainland.”

Above sharing from recycling volunteers reflected the problems faced in the early stage of the recycling project. With constant perseverance of volunteers, overtime, more and more islanders came to support and participate in the weekly recycling work.

Mayor Yeoh could not help agreeing to what were shared by Tzu Chi volunteers. He said, “The moment I learnt that the recycling centre in Pulau Ketam was started by a few volunteers and how it has progressed to such a promising scale today, it has to be some kind of secret keys. I would like to take this model back to Pulau Gaya.”

Mayor Yeoh went on to clarify that the two islands have a lot in common but the differences were the landscape and the density of buildings. These differences pose some challenges to the planning for the recycling project. However, he believed that with careful planning, they could be overcome.

He shared, “We shall protect our Mother Earth. She does not belong to us. We simply borrow her from our children and grandchildren. Mother Earth shall be conserved to provide a liveable environment for our future generations.” His determination to push for recycling project was reflected in his statements.

On his visit to Pulau Ketam, Mayor Yeoh realized that the success of the recycling project was the result of the hard work of each and every volunteer in Pulau Ketam. With elation, he added, “The commitment and perseverance of these volunteers inspired me. The recycling effort has improved the cleanliness of the environment. If Pulau Ketam could make it, I believe Pulau Gaya could make it too.”

In 2012, whilst visiting Master Cheng Yen, Mayor Yeoh took the opportunity to discuss his challenges in his recycling initiative. The Master’s words of wisdom, “If you have the will, you could accomplish anything,” had deep seated in his heart. These words have also served as his driving force to his new initiative.

Mayor Yeoh knew that initiating the recycling programme is an uphill task. Initially, he had no clue in kick-starting the programme, but after his visit to Pulau Ketam, the exposure has heightened his confidence. His aspiration is to turn Pulau Gaya into a clean and beautiful beach island.

 

On their visit to Tzu Chi Recycling-cum-Educational Centre in Pulau Ketam, Mayor Yeoh and his team also discovered about the transportation of recyclables. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]   Mayor Yeoh was very receptive of the sharing by volunteers in Pulau Ketam. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]

On their visit to Tzu Chi Recycling-cum-Educational Centre in Pulau Ketam, Mayor Yeoh and his team also discovered about the transportation of recyclables. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]
 
Mayor Yeoh was very receptive of the sharing by volunteers in Pulau Ketam. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]
 
After listening to volunteers’ sharing, Mayor Yeoh proactively discussed with volunteers from Sabah on his plan in setting up a recycling programme in Pulau Gaya. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]   At the end of the visit, Mayor Yeoh, his officers and Tzu Chi volunteers took a group photo as remembrance. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]

After listening to volunteers’ sharing, Mayor Yeoh proactively discussed with volunteers from Sabah on his plan in setting up a recycling programme in Pulau Gaya. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]
 
 
At the end of the visit, Mayor Yeoh, his officers and Tzu Chi volunteers took a group photo as remembrance. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]