Plogging Programme at Kampung Gombak Utara

By Zahid Zamri

Last Sunday (25 September 2022), students from AbdulHamid AbuSulayman Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences (AHAS KIRKHS), International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) and I joined a plogging programme called “Projek Kelestarian Alam Sekitar Kampung Gombak Utara” at Kampung Gombak Utara, Gombak Setia, Kuala Lumpur.

The programme was organized by Majlis Pengurusan Komuniti Kampung (MPKK) of Kampung Gombak Utara, Kebun Komuniti Gombak Utara (KKGU), together with the Selangor State Government through its Jawatankuasa Penduduk (JKP) Zone 1, Majlis Perbandaran Selayang (MPS) as well as Team Selangor. The programme was launched by the Penyelaras Dewan Undangan Negeri (DUN) Gombak Setia cum the Political Secretary of the Selangor Chief Minister, A. Rahim Kasdi.

Basically, the word “plogging” is derived from the combination of two Swedish words, namely “plocka upp” and “jogga.” It is said that the concept originated in Sweden, wherein people jog at the same time while picking up trash that they found throughout their jogging routes. Usually, ploggers will use rubbish-picker sticks to collect the rubbish and put them in rubbish bags.

The same process was done by us. However, uniquely our picking sticks were created by the aborigines, who were also among the settlers of the Gombak Utara area. The sticks were made of rattan and were easy to use, just like the “modern” ones. Then, aside from using hand gloves and fluorescent vests, we were also equipped with differently coloured trash bags which helped us sort out the collected rubbish based on their type i.e. plastic rubbish were put in white bags, paper rubbish in blue bags, and glass rubbish in green bags.

Through the arrangement made by the Office of Deputy Dean Student Development and Community Engagement (DDSDCE), we arrived at Dewan Komuniti Batu 9 as early as 8.00 am. Aside from me (who is also the Advisor for the IRKHS’ Student Society [IRKHSSS]), our team consisted of both local and international students, namely Vice-President 1 of the IRKHSSS, Sr. Amiratul Huda; Sr. Izzatul Najwa, Chairperson of the Secretariat of Sociology and Anthropology (SOCASA) as well the representative of its Sport and Recreation Bureau, Sr. Iman Nurani Kamarudin together with another student from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology; 3 students from the Department of Arabic Language and Literature; and a student from the Department of English Language and Literature.  

Altogether, the participants were divided into 6 groups, and we were assigned to do plogging in 6 different zones within the Gombak Utara’s area. Our team covered the area surrounding the University’s main gate up to the 3-way junction near the Gombak’s Toll Plaza. Our group collected 19.25 kilogram (kg) of plastics, 0.5 kg of paper, 12.9 kg of tin/iron/aluminium, 3.75 kg of cloth, and 0.125 kg of others. In total, we collected 32.775 kg of trash. Alhamdulillah, together with the other two groups, we were awarded third place for the category of the cleanest zone and the heaviest amount of recyclable trash.

It was also interesting to see that the community had invited foreign workers who stayed in the village to join the programme. We could see from their faces that they were pleased to contribute and be part of the community improvement effort. In addition, the Jabatan Sukarelawan Malaysia (RELA) was also involved in ensuring the safety of the participants throughout the activity, and they were headed by non-other than the former Head of Village himself.

We were happy to witness such harmonious and pleasing cooperation demonstrated by the different segments of the community. Besides, among the key persons that organized the activity were IIUM alumni, namely Nor Azmina Ishak (the Chairperson of the Biro Kesejahteraan dan Keceriaan for the Gombak Utara’s MPKK, who is an alumna of the Department of Psychology, AHAS KIRKHS) and Zainuddin Yahya (the Chairperson of KKGU, who is an alumnus of the Kulliyah of Economics and Management Sciences).

Next on 16 October 2022, the same plogging activity will be conducted in the same village by the same committee members, but this time it will be done on canoes. This is because we will “plog” the trash in/on the river that runs through the village.  

From my perspective, such rubbish collection activities are suitable to be done, but these can still be considered palliative measures that will not solve the issue of our unclean environment which has been burdening us for a very long time since the advent of the profit-oriented free market economy. Despite the mass production of plastics and other non-environmental friendly products used for the packaging of goods, it leaves us, as consumers, with no option but to purchase these products as we need them for our daily lives such as sardines, peas, fruits in cans; ketchup, chilli and soy sauce in glass bottles; bread, diapers, instant noodles, etc. in plastic bags.

It is as if the responsibility to take care of the cleanliness of our mother nature has been transferred from the shoulders of these industrial producers to ours. The public will be blamed for not sorting their waste according to the correct recycling bins rather than the product manufacturers who already made a lot of profit from sales. On the other hand, the government, too, must not succumb to the pressure from the consumers’ “demands” projected by these industrial “players” in getting their non-green policies approved by the people who hold political power. 

Nonetheless, as some critical theory scholars may have stopped being critical by saying that the profit-oriented free market is too big to fall, we, in contrast, as the first step, must not give up and keep on doing our best in solving any predicaments contributed by this hegemonic political-economic system within our capacity, as what has been demonstrated by the Gombak Utara’s community through its plogging programme. ***

(Assistant Professor Dr Zahid Zamri is an academic in the Department of Political Science, AbdulHamid AbuSulayman Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences. The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of IIUMToday.)

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