SEBERANG PERAI, Nov 26 ― Long before recycling became common practice, old town Butterworth was a recycling hub with its many small collection centres spread out over several areas.
Similar to the auto parts and scrap metal shops, these collection centres are scattered all along Jalan Kampung Gajah, Jalan Siram and Jalan Permatang Pauh.
Littered with items like plastic bottles, cardboard and aluminium cans, these centres are basically open-air spaces with a shack and tall zinc fences to separate them from their neighbours, which are often similar businesses dealing with recyclables, scrap metals or auto parts.
Some of these centres stand out, especially with their piles of recyclables arranged in separate piles according to materials.
They buy plastic bottles, non-iron metal, used oil drums, cardboard, paper and aluminium from suppliers and even people who walk in with packets of recyclable items.
While people look for spare parts and materials at the auto parts and scrap metal shops in Butterworth, these recyclable material collection centres buy up recyclable waste which they later sell off to various factories to be recycled.
Some of these centres have been around for over 40 years, long before recycling was encouraged and have survived through the years regardless of economic conditions.
One of these, Syarikat Kumaresan, was established more than 40 years ago to collect casein and casting iron materials for recycling.
The business was started by C.Balakrishnan but today, his nephew, S.Sathya, 36, is in charge.
“My uncle has retired so I took over the business about five years ago and we have since expanded to also collect plastic bottles and cardboard,” he said.
He said his supplies mostly come from locals who would bring bags of bottles and cardboard to sell.
“We would collect all the items and bundle them according to different categories and then we will sell it to the factories for recycling,” he said.
They continue to deal in casein and casting iron materials.
“Sometimes, I will have to separate out the casein and iron that we bought from suppliers before sending it to the factories,” he said.
These centres are easily differentiated from scrap metal or auto parts shops as there are layers of plastic containers and cardboard boxes amid piles of iron, aluminium and other clumps of barely recognisable waste around the place.
Over at Jalan Permatang Pauh, one of the centres that stands out is the Kitar Saujana company that deals in metal and plastic oil drums and tanks.
Rows of multicoloured drums are stacked up high, forming colourful walls lining the grounds of the shop.
According to a worker, the shop is one of the pioneers in recycling metal and plastic oil drums.
“These drums are sourced locally and then sold off to local companies for recycling,” he said.
These are not the only items that can be collected and sold to be recycled.
Over at Velsmetels Sdn Bhd, non-ferrous non-iron materials such as aluminium and copper can be recycled too.
The centre deals exclusively in used aluminium such as window frames, construction materials along with the more common aluminium cans.
It looks just like another scrap metal yard except it has stacks of aluminium window frames and other aluminium materials instead of iron rods.
On the other side, copper parts such as air conditioner copper pipes and copper tanks are stacked and arranged haphazardly.
Company director V. Thavaaseelan, 28, said his father started the business more than 20 years ago.
“We collect from local suppliers who will collect it from construction sites and factories,” he said.
The aluminium and copper parts will then be bundled separately and sold off to companies in Kuala Lumpur.
“These can be smelted and reused for the making of other items,” he said.
Though they are relatively new in the recycling business in Butterworth, he believes that the industry will continue to thrive in the old town.
“There are so many recyclable material collection centres here so suppliers and people will know to come here to sell us their materials,” he said.
Old town Butterworth is now undergoing urban regeneration through a joint effort by Think City and the Seberang Perai Municipal Council (MPSP).
Plans are underway to rejuvenate the old town and bring life back to the former government administrative centre.
Businesses such as these recyclable material collection centres will stand to benefit from the programme as it will bring much-needed traffic and economic activities to the area.
*Think City is also undertaking urban regeneration programmes for George Town, Kuala Lumpur and Johor. Find out more about Think City and its projects at thinkcity.com.my.