BASED on a 2012 report, Malaysia produces about 33,000 tonnes of solid waste per day and it was projected to increase at a rate of 3.5% annually.
At this projected rate, the disposal of solid waste in the country, especially in the cities, if not handled professionally, may turn out to be a mega stinking problem.
Burying the waste in sanitary landfills may be economical but it is a crude and primitive method of waste disposal.
This practice of burying waste in landfills which stays mummified for hundreds of years underground may be suitable in certain circumstances, however, for high-density, fast-growing cities the use of incinerators has many advantages.
Despite the mounting pressure against the use of incinerators by certain quarters, it must be pointed out that there are now newly designed ultra-modern environmentally safe and friendly incinerators in the market.
Most developed countries are using incinerators to get rid of their daily waste along with a strong emphasis on recycling.
The best thing about modern incinerators is that they are designed to mitigate all kinds of hazardous pollution. Apart from this, modern incinerators are designed in such a way that they can recover energy from waste combustion.
I am not totally against the use of sanitary landfills. If we can afford the land and if it is managed professionally with minimum impact on public and environmental health we should continue to use landfills.
As for Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, the Bukit Tagar sanitary landfill apparently is said to have enough space to cater for all the waste generated for next 65 years. Under these circumstances, it is logical and economical to continue using the Bukit Tagar sanitary landfill for the disposal of waste generated in the Klang Valley.
However, we should not completely rule out the use of incinerators in other parts of the country where landfills may have a potential negative impact on air, water and soil quality.
Landfills have been singled out as one of the major contributing sources of the greenhouse effect. The methane gas released from the decaying waste in landfills is choking and heating up the environment.
Methane gas is said to have the ability to trap atmospheric heat 20 times more effectively than carbon dioxide. As such, landfills without any mechanism in place to manage this harmful methane gas (trap or harness) should not be permitted to operate due to the obvious risk to humans and the environment.
The authorities should continue to educate the public on the usefulness and advantages of using incinerators to cater for the ever-increasing waste generated in the country.
When people in Europe, the United States and Singapore go about their daily chores with an incinerator in their backyard without any complaint, I wonder why is there so much fuss and resistance over here.
Despite assurances by the authorities that the incinerators are of the latest design and is safe and environment-friendly, I am puzzled as to why certain groups are still resisting it.
I concur with the views expressed by Urban, Wellbeing and Local Government Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan recently that certain individuals are playing on people’s emotion using “half-baked facts” which had somewhat influenced the public to resist the building of incinerators in the country.
Whatever it is, the authorities should continue to engage the public to provide them with the right facts and information and to dispel any unwanted fears.