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Waste management is a crucial area related to the economic status of a country and the lifestyle of its population. Solid waste management can be defined as a discipline associated with the control of generation, storage, collection, transfer and transport, processing and disposal of solid wastes and in spite of the aggressive economic development in Malaysia, the solid waste management is relatively poor.The main objective is to improve waste minimization strategy and control. Modern waste management is shifted to a more flexible waste hierarchy concept, also called as 3R (reduce, reuse, recycle) policies. The developing Asia counts as the fastest and largest waste generator globally and a closer inspection reveals a mix of general and specific elements of policy dynamics in the evolution and adoption of waste management policies .

Global 3R Initiative aims to promote the "3Rs" (reduce, reuse and recycle) globally in order to build a sound material-cycle society through the effective use of resources and materials and it was agreed upon at the G8 Sea Island Summitas a new G8 initiative and the UN Millennium Development Goal(MDG) aims to ensure environmental sustainability because of the prevalence of unsustainable production and rapid consumption of virgin raw material/ natural resources. It is achievable through effective and efficient 3R programmes which are vital to reverse the trends of environmental unsustainability. 3R initiatives in Asian regions were officially launched at the 3R Ministerial Conference hosted by the Government of Japan in April 2005.

Today, waste and waste management has given rise to many pressing issues such as expensive land prices, strict environmental regulations, health and safety issues, improper management of waste disposal sites, landfill spaces becoming limited , policy problems, and the unwillingness of local communities to accept new technologies and facilities in ‘their own back yards’. Failing in managing solid waste leads to increased operation cost and damaging the environment. In Malaysia, waste management and waste minimization is not the sole responsibility of Local authorities but most government agencies like the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, Ministry of Environment, Ministry Of Health, the various academic institutions and NGOs should work together to achieve this.

Population growth has led to an increase in generation of solid waste in Malaysia. According to the government, it has become a crucial issue to be solved.

In 2005, the waste generated in Malaysia amounted to 19,000 tons per day (recycling rate: 5 percent). Eleven years later, 2016, the quantity was 38,200 tons/day (recycling rate: 17.5 percent). As reported, food waste is a major component of generated waste (45 percent) and contains high organic compounds. Due to unseparated waste, more than 30 percent potentially recyclable materials such as paper, plastic, aluminum and glass are still directly disposed of in landfills. In addition, diapers are evolving into a major component (12.1 percent). This situation is set to change. Considering that 16.76 million tons (or 45,900 tons/day) of waste (household waste: 70 percent; commercial waste: 30 percent) is expected to be generated by nearly 30 million Malaysians in the year 2020, the Malaysian government plans to reduce the waste disposed of in landfills. By the year 2020, the reduction shall amount to 40 percent through 22 percent recycling and 80 percent intermediate treatment such as waste-to-energy, composting and material recovery.

As landfilling is currently the ultimate waste disposal method that can deal with many types of materials, most of the garbage ends on landfill sites. As reported by Tey Jia Sin, Dr. Goh Kai Chen, Dr. Kek Sie Long and Ir. Dr. Goh Hui Hwang of the University Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia, most landfills in the country are small scale operations with varying designs. In addition, a lot of these sites are poorly maintained. Other disposal sites are the open dumpsites, where waste is illegally disposed of.

According to the Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Corporation (SWCorp Malaysia), there are only 14 sanitary landfills all over the country; 161 landfills are still in operation, while 141 are closed. As reported by SWCorp Malaysia, there are several incinerators in the country with a capacity of 75 tons/day in total. A facility for construction and demolition waste is able to treat 500 tons per day. Organic waste is treated in collaboration with Kitakyushu City Hall, Japan (500 tons/year), in Malaysian food waste facilities (anaerobic digester: 1,500 kilograms/day) and composting plants (150 kilograms/day).

The first waste-to-energy facility in Malaysia will be located at Taman Beringin in the capital city Kuala Lumpur; it is expected to start operations in 2019 with an estimated capacity of 1,000 tons/day. Furthermore, a waste-to-energy plant is under construction. Cypark Resources Berhad is diversifying into the less cyclical business of renewable energy (RE) generation and waste management concession business to strengthen its income generating capability. The company is investing to build this plant in Ladang Tanah Merah, Negeri Sembilan. According to the information, this facility will be able to produce 25MW of power from handling solid waste disposal and has the ability to increase capacity in the future.

The sustainable integrated waste management facility would encompass the following areas:


  • Collection and Disposal

  • Waste Receiving Facility (WRF)

  • Waste Segregation Facility (WSF) with material recovery/recycling facility

  • Fully Anaerobic Bioreactor System (FABIOS) Plant

  • Power Generation Facility which includes Biogas Power Plant and Waste-to-Energy Plant

  • Sanitary Landfill for commingled, inert solid waste and processed waste residuals

  • Environmental Treatment Systems including Leachate Treatment Facility

  • Salvaging Yard for combustible solid waste and recyclables

  •  Administration and Support Facilities

  • Operations & Maintenance of Waste

  • Facility Infrastructural and

  • Ancillary Works

An increasing volume of electrical and electronic devices (e-waste) from private households is disposed of in open landfills every year. According to a project report about e-waste in Malaysia, which was encouraged by the Japanese Department for the Environment, the amount of e-waste grows by an average of 14 percent per year. Until 2020 around 1.17 billion devices respectively 21.4 million tons of e-waste will be gathered.

The first facility for the recycling of electrical and electronic waste should be put into operation in 2017. According to the supplier, German-based company Andritz MeWa, the plant is able to process annually around 300,000 old refrigerators and up to 60,000 tons of electrical and electronic scrap from private households, such as washing machines, household appliances, and ICT equipment including computers. Private company Shan Poornam Metals operates the first e-waste processing plant in collaboration with the public Department of Environment. The environmental authority should ascertain that 86 centers for collection are established across the country by 2018. Those centers pass e-waste on to recycling facilities in Seberang Prai in the federal state of Penang. So far there is no system for the collection and treatment of electrical and electronic waste from private households. Appropriate waste from the industry sector is handled according to regulations.

In August 2014, the Malaysian government announced plans to build an ecological industrial park in the Klang Valley. It is intended that the park will feature a primary industry and a waste generation center to enable primary industrial waste to be reused by secondary industries. At that time it was planned to start building the park in two years’ time.

According to BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2019, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from energy use grew 2% last year, the fastest growth in seven years. The acceleration was attributed to growing demand for energy, due largely to weather-related effects, especially in the US, China and Russia, and a further unwinding of cyclical factors in China.

According to BP’s research, Malaysia’s CO2 emissions amounted to 250.3 million tonnes last year, up from 241.6 million tonnes in 2017. The main sources of the emissions were energy (electricity consumption), mobility (vehicles) and waste (municipal solid waste that ends up in landfills).

At the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as 2015 Paris Climate Conference and Conference of Parties (COP) 21, held in Paris, France, Malaysia made a commitment to reduce by 2030 its CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by 45% from the level in 2005.

Thus, the government, via the Malaysian Green Technology Corporation (GreenTech Malaysia), is expending a lot of effort in promoting a guiding document called Low Carbon Cities Framework (LCCF).

Launched in 2011, LCCF is a national framework assessment system to guide and assess the development of cities and to support holistic sustainable development in Malaysia.

GreenTech Malaysia comes under the purview of the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC). Established in 2010, its mandate is to spearhead the development and promotion of green technology as a strategic engine of socioeconomic growth in line with the Green Technology Master Plan 2017-2030.

According to GreenTech Malaysia acting CEO Syed Ahmad Syed Mustafa, the framework is primarily used by the local authorities to guide the transformation of the cities under their jurisdiction into low carbon cities.

“The framework contains several components that include a low carbon city design guideline, a measurement and reporting methodology as well as an assessment and recognition programme,” he says.

LCCF was developed to get cities, which are responsible for up to 70% of greenhouse gas emissions, to address the problem and take concrete action on it.

“Like any government-related programme, we involved the private sector, academia, subject matter experts, professional bodies, other ministries and agencies in coming up with the framework,” says Syed Ahmad.

GreenTech Malaysia looks at five key elements in the framework. The first four are to reduce CO2 emissions through the energy use and water consumption of buildings and common areas, petrol and diesel of two and four-wheel private vehicles, and municipal solid waste ending up in landfills. The fifth element is to increase carbon sequestration from protecting and adding green spaces.

Five areas are looked at to measure an area’s CO2 emissions, says Saiful Adib Abdul Munaff, the head of the low carbon cities department. They are energy and water consumption, CO2 emissions from vehicles and base generators, and total secretion from greenery and water bodies.

“The cities that start today will use their 2018 data as their baseline. Now, they will start implementing their measures and every year, they will check their data. When there is any reduction, they will be awarded accordingly,” he explains.

The overall CO2 reduction level will be awarded with carbon assessment performance recognition (see Table 1).

The goal, says Saiful, is to reduce CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030. As each city’s make-up and number of buildings and vehicles are different, the easiest way to measure is to reduce 45% from each city’s initial baseline.

As at last year, 52 of the 154 local authorities in Malaysia had been trained and made aware of low carbon cities. Of these, 19 have measured their emissions baseline and developed a low carbon action plan.

Besides the local authorities, the other participants are Universiti Malaya (UM), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), Universiti Malaysia Sarawak and the Royal Malaysian Navy.

Five local authorities — Shah Alam City Council (MBSA), Klang Municipal Council (MPK), City Council of Seberang Perai (MPSP), Hang Tuah Jaya Municipal Council (MPHTJ) and Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) — as well as UM and UTM have successfully reduced CO2 emissions and are continuing their efforts (see Table 2).

Saiful explains that for anyone who embarks on this low carbon journey, an energy audit will be done on the building to know its current performance. “From the audit, they will be able to determine what to address, such as lighting, air-conditioning and all the other elements. Then, they will draw up a plan.”

The plan will have three measures — low cost, medium cost and long-term cost. Usually, says Saiful, the low cost measure will be implemented first, such as changing the setting of the air-conditioning and lighting systems.

“There is no cost to these kinds of measures but they can have a significant impact on the reduction of energy consumption,” he adds.

According to Saiful, the next typical step would be to change all the lighting to LED and then move on to the air-conditioning system.

Moving forward, GreenTech Malaysia is accelerating the adoption of low carbon cities through the Low Carbon Cities 2030 Challenge, which was launched on July 23.

“This challenge aims to establish low carbon zones in state capitals and major urban cities,” says Saiful, adding that it is being expanded to include all universities, individual buildings and organisations.

He explains that the challenge is the implementation programme of LCCF. “Within this challenge, we have various targets and sub-programmes. It focuses purely on the implementation.”

There are two categories for low carbon zones, says Syed Ahmad. One is areas that are more than 123.5 acres in size and the other is individual organisations like university campuses and companies, where they will become Low Carbon Cities Partners of their respective local authorities.

GreenTech Malaysia will work with the local authorities to identify and designate a low carbon zone, says Saiful. “One of the criteria we look at is an area within the central business district where commercial activity and the concentration of business and residential are the highest,” he adds.

“There are no hard and fast rules about what a zone should be but we want them to be within areas that they can manage and control. An area of 123.5 acres is big enough to include all the elements, such as transport, waste and energy.”

Areas that are zoned as low carbon will follow the guidelines of LCCF, Saiful says.

Through this challenge, by 2030, GreenTech Malaysia and MESTECC target to establish and designate 200 low carbon zones across the country and have at least 1,000 Low Carbon Cities Partners.

Currently, there are no direct incentives specifically for low carbon cities, says Syed Ahmad, but there are many other incentives like the Green Technology Financing Scheme, Green Investment Tax Allowance and Green Income Tax Exemption that support the low carbon agenda.

“With that being said, we do continuously explore and develop new programmes, both locally and internationally funded, to help these cities implement new solutions and address specific issues that they may have,” he adds.

Meanwhile, GreenTech Malaysia is developing a LCCF-ready assessment for new developments. “This requires further development with the planners and various professional bodies to see how we can assess a new development from the CO2 emission point of view,” says Saiful.

“New developments do not emit any CO2 until they have actually been built. It is a different form of assessment where we estimate the emission of CO2 when it is completed and occupied. We are in the process of looking into this,” he adds.

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