Putting a lid on increasing garbage

by christina low AND choong mek zhin

WITH some 7.2 million people, the Klang Valley is home to a fifth of the country’s population and produces some 6,000 metric tonnes of solid waste every day. That is equal to 6,000,000kg bags of rice.

Greater Kuala Lumpur / Klang Valley is identified as a key focus area in the Federal Government’s Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), including developing an efficient solid waste management ecosystem.

It was projected that by 2020, the daily waste production in the area would grow to 15,422 metric tonnes but Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan said the national solid waste estimate might have already been reached.

Currently, there are eight landfills in Selangor as well as two transfer stations, the latter being a processing site for temporary waste-dumping prior to being loaded onto larger vehicles for transport to landfills.

The ETP states that our current practices are not sustainable — we lack a proper system for disposal of construction and demolition waste. Malaysia’s recycling efforts are also far behind other nations at just 11% in 2009 compared to Singapore at 57% and Denmark at 42%.

Garbage trucks at the Shah Alam transfer station, waiting to dump the day’s load at the facility.

Abdul Rahman likened our situation to the garbage crisis in Naples, Italy a few years ago when its streets was littered with rubbish as the region’s dumps were already running at full capacity a decade earlier.

It got to a point that a state of emergency was declared on an annual basis until 2008, costing billions in ringgit, and until today, the problem persists as plans for waste disposal facilities continue to be delayed.

The city has even relied on neighbouring countries’ incinerators as a short-term solution to its problem with varying degrees of success.

In Malaysia, both the federal and Selangor government have introduced various measures to tackle the issue.

In 2012, the state government took over the responsibility of public cleaning and garbage collection from solid waste management concessionaire Alam Flora Sdn Bhd, which resulted in increased savings and a more proactive local authority.

At the federal level, the government is encouraging higher participation in the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (3R) programme through separation of waste at source with a target of achieving a recycling rate of 40% by 2020.

This is in tandem with plans to increase waste treatment capacity that includes options such as incinerators or mechanical-biological treatment facilities to reduce reliance on landfills which addresses the issue of land scarcity.

Other measures are to improve governance of solid waste management and public cleaning services as well as assessing the potential of new technological developments.

According to the ETP report cards, separation of trash at homes has been implemented in Kuala Lumpur though most residents seem unaware of this while a new construction and demolition waste facility in Sungai Kertas has been set up.

Another Government effort comes in the form of a pilot anaerobic digestion plant in Sungai Besi, which faced land issues last year, but this has been resolved and it is expected to be fully functional by this year.

There are also plans to build an incinerator at the Taman Beringin transfer station, which was abandoned by the company in charge of operating it, causing rubbish collectors to dump their loads along the MRR2 last month.

 

It was later discovered that most of the station’s machinery such as the compactors were not in working condition.

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