Time to look at incineration


Burden of waste: The Jeram landfill (above) in Selangor is currently the largest landfill in the country. The authorities are finding it hard to find replacement landfills and are looking for alternatives in waste management.

Burden of waste: The Jeram landfill (above) in Selangor is currently the largest landfill in the country. The authorities are finding it hard to find replacement landfills and are looking for alternatives in waste management.

YOUR report “Prolonging life of dumpsites” (Star Metro, Sept 21) has given me the opportunity to reignite the discussion on the advantages of employing waste-to-energy (WTE) technology, which uses the incineration process, in waste management.

WTE plants are necessary for Malaysia due to the increasing amount of household waste being produced daily, resulting in over-burdened landfills.

I refer in particular to the proposed incinerator project at Taman Beringin, Kepong which has been met with protests by certain groups who have voiced their concern about the negative impact of the plant on their neighbourhood.

There is an inclination among people to band all incinerators into a single category, thus ignoring the vast improvements in the technology, including WTE plants, and the global trend to use them rather than traditional landfills.

Firstly, recycling is not compromised by supporting the WTE method of treating waste. Selangor, as mentioned in the report, generates 7,000 tonnes of waste daily. Just six of the 12 local authorities in Selangor produce 20% of Malay­sia’s waste. (The six are Shah Alam City Council, Petaling Jaya City Council, Subang Jaya Municipal Council, Klang Municipal Council, Ampang Municipal Council and the Kuala Selangor District Council.) If the other six and Kuala Lumpur were added together, the total volume of trash would be staggering.

With people producing 4.4kg of waste daily (compared to 1.9kg by Americans and 1.3kg by citizens of the European Union), there is a glaring need for recycling in urban Malaysia.

The US Environment Protection Agency estimates that 75% of household waste can be recycled. Ger­mans recycle an estimated 87% of household waste, which is remarkable when compared to the 12.5% here, as estimated by Clean Malay­sia, an online news site covering this country’s environmental landscape reported. This is substantially lower than the 59% in Singapore.

Reducing the total volume of waste while increasing the recycling rate is imperative if we do not want to be overwhelmed by mountains of waste in the near future.

But the remaining waste will still have to be managed, and this is where the WTE plants could fit in especially in a modern city like Kuala Lumpur.

Just last week, India called for vendors to submit proposals to build 100 WTE plants. The South Delhi Municipal Corporation is already set to receive a WTE plant to clear 400 tonnes of waste daily.

Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates is set to have the first WTE plant in the Persian Gulf region. Expected to be operational in 2020, the plant would incinerate 300,000 tonnes of waste and convert them into 27MW of electricity (enough to power 28,000 homes in the city).

Jakarta is also set to begin the construction of a WTE plant by the end of this month.

The local authorities in Selangor could use WTE plants too. The technology has matured even if it has not been used in Malaysia yet.

In Sweden, electrostatic filters and scrubbers limit the amount of air pollution (smoke) emitted from the incineration plants, releasing 99.9% non-toxic carbon dioxide and water vapour.

Landfills are on their way out for metropolises; WTE technology, which is different from the old “burn-em-furnaces” of the past, is the next generation solution.

SHARIFAH DANISAH SYED IBRAHIM

Kuala Lumpur