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Community Recycling: Taiwan Buddhist Tzu-Chi Foundation Malaysia

Jun-E Tan, 2014

Taiwan Buddhist Tzu-Chi Foundation Malaysia (here forth Tzu-Chi) is a Buddhist association that originated from Taiwan in 1966, and has been registered in Malaysia as a foundation since 1996. Since 1990, the founder Master Cheng Yen enlisted Environmental Protection as one of the organisation’s “8 Charitable Footprints”. Her followers all over the world are urged to recycle as part of their service in exercising their faith. There are four regional headquarters in Malaysia: the Central (Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Pahang), the South (Negeri Sembilan, Malacca and Johor), the North (Penang, Perlis, Perak, Kedah, Terengganu and Kelantan), and East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak). Each of the headquarters report directly to the main headquarters in Taiwan.

Recycling is considered to be a meaningful activity to reach out to the public, with a low barrier of entry and visible results. Tzu-Chi regards their recruitment of recycling volunteers as “recruitment of Bodhisattvas”, i.e. enlightened and compassionate beings who serve others selflessly as the embodiment of Buddha’s spirit. Through recycling at a personal level, many volunteers are inspired to spread the message to their friends and family, or to expand to implementing recycling systems at the workplace.

In terms of operations, Tzu-Chi volunteers run recycling points and recycling stations. Recycling points are temporary locations that the members congregate at specific times to collect recyclables. Recycling stations provide a permanent location for collecting, sorting and storing recyclables. The recycling points and stations are positioned in high density residential areas. Volunteers organise to meet at varied times that enable different types of participants to come, e.g. weekday mornings for housewives and retired people, weekday evenings for office people to come after work, and weekends for families.

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