MALAYSIANS generate about 38,699 tonnes of solid waste every day – at least 1.17kg per person.
While Malaysia has many landfills, the number is still not enough accommodate the large amount of trash generated, says the Housing and Local Government Ministry.
“The life expectancy of a landfill is about 20 to 25 years, depending on how much area it takes up.
“But a big part of such sites will be full or unusable within two to three years due to the rising amount of waste,” it says.
The amount of solid waste is expected to continue piling up as the population grows.
“But the amount of garbage can be reduced if the public has good and proper waste disposal practices such as separating their trash to be recycled as a habit,” it says.
Currently, there are 141 solid waste landfills in Malaysia. Of those, 116 are open dump sites, 21 are sanitary landfills (which are engineered with anti-pollution features to allow safe decomposition) while four are residual waste landfills.
“Proper waste management is important because if not carried out accordingly, it will cause a host of negative impacts including water and land pollution, which will in turn affect our water sources,” the ministry adds.
Due to space constraints, Malaysia is now transitioning to incineration methods to overcome its garbage disposal issues.
The ministry says there are currently four small-scale thermal treatment plants; the Langkawi plant can process 100 tonnes of trash a day, Cameron Highlands can handle 40 tonnes, Pangkor 20 tonnes, and Tioman 15 tonnes.
Such incineration centres can help as waste can be burnt quickly, with 99% of solid waste being incinerated at temperatures around 800°C to 900°C.
“With this method, about half of the solid waste produced can be incinerated daily. The ashes are considered 99% safe to be disposed of in existing landfills,” the ministry says.
Aside from solid waste, there’s also a growing concern over clinical waste in Malaysia, which has increased due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Department of Environment (DOE) is planning to increase the number of treatment facilities that can process clinical waste, which includes used test swabs, personal protective equipment and other items from hospitals, clinics and quarantine centres.
“There are several development projects, and one facility will start operating by the end of this year,” the department says.
Currently, the DOE says it is prioritising projects involving clinical waste treatment to increase this sector’s capacity and technological abilities.
It has been reported that clinical waste has increased by 20% since the coronavirus outbreak began in Malaysia in March 2020. As at Sept 30 this year, 3,576 tonnes of Covid-19-related waste had been produced nationwide.
The DOE is urging hospitals, clinics and quarantine and vaccination centres to ensure that all clinical waste generated on their premises is sent to licensed facilities for proper treatment and disposal.
The department believes these facilities need to strengthen their capabilities in terms of treatment technology, which should be certified by the World Health Organisation.
“Such facilities must look into having adequate storage capacity to cater to incidents such as this pandemic.
“They should upgrade existing treatment technology and comply with requirements in the agreement they signed and not intentionally delay the process,” the department says.
The DOE also believes state governments should do their part in ensuring clinical waste is managed efficiently in their states.
“Currently, there are many clinical waste management services providers that do not have sufficient capacity to manage clinical waste. We encourage companies that are able to develop better facilities to come forward for further engagement,” it says.