Waste-to-energy the way to go

Hafidz Baharom

FIRST off, congratulations are in order for the Selangor government, for finally approving the Integrated Solid Waste Management (ISWM) facility next to the Jeram landfill in Kuala Selangor.

This will include a waste-to-energy (WTE) plant, recycling plant, anaerobic digestion plant, compost plant, construction waste recycling site, and research and development centre. In all honesty, it is a brilliant plan that has been long awaited in dealing with our issue of solid waste.

It clearly shows that even with the 3R programme marketed by the state government, there is still a need for better waste management centres to make up for the 3% increase every two years.

At the same time, I am sure that this centre will be coupled with the Selangor waste sorting project, which will require residents to sort their household waste into two simple categories – recyclables and non-recyclables – rather than the hassle of the multicoloured plastic bag system implemented everywhere else.

This will be the second time a WTE plant has been mentioned this month, the first being hopefully a similar set-up proposed in Taman Beringin, Kepong. Of course, neither is the first that will be completed.

The first integrated WTE plant will be in Bukit Merah, Port Dickson, which is already under construction.

National Solid Waste Management Department (JPSPN) director-general Ismail Mokhtar says this is in the final stage of the tender and will be announced by the end of the year.

The plant in Kuala Lumpur will generate enough electricity to power 57,000 houses for every 1,000 tonnes burned. And according to the piece published on November 6, with 2,700 tonnes collected and sent to Jinjang Selatan daily, there will not be a shortage of trash.

I have yet to see the power production of the plants in Port Dickson and Kuala Selangor, but hopefully, these will also be able to generate power for households.

WTE technology has, of course, been under attack from a certain civil society organisation, which has now made its Facebook page private to bar questions.

Additionally, it is quite surprising that the group has not mounted a similar challenge against the ones in Selangor and Negri Sembilan, for some odd reason.

Among its latest ploy in the press to protest this project, chairman Lee Chong Tek said the proposed Kuala Lumpur plant’s ability to generate energy equivalent to the ones in Japan was questionable due to the lack of population.

Well, the Japanese also have 21 such plants, whereas we are only planning on having three now, so the seven-times-less figure should even it out.

Also, considering the fact that we generate an average of 1.9kg of solid waste daily, compared with the 1.1kg for the average Japanese, I believe it is safe to say there will be no shortage of trash.

Another argument is that we should focus on recycling. Well, the South Koreans recycle 45% of their trash, and they still have 35 WTE plants.

Also, Ismail said the Jinjang Selatan station was at overcapacity at 2,700 tonnes. How is that even possible?

At the same time, there needs to be more enforcement to undo illegal dumping sites – as highlighted by Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng, as well as Selangor, which has announced the discovery of 166 illegal dumping sites.

Personally, it seems to me that there is a disconnect between the group and the facts on the ground brought forward by JPSPN, the states of Selangor and Negri Sembilan, and even the other countries that have embraced WTE technology.

Perhaps, everyone else is wrong and they are the only ones who are right. Who knows.

What I do know, however, is that we need integrated, long-term solid waste management plans. We need to rely less on landfills and move forward in both recycling and WTE technology in order to deal with the increasing demand on our waste management system.

We have leisurely delayed discussing this matter because of our continuous dependency on landfills, whereas our close neighbour to the south, Singapore, has established four such plants to deal with waste in perpetuity out of necessity.

The truth is, we are playing catch-up. And with current technology, proper maintenance, and educating the general public on the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling in all shapes and forms, we will create a better future for ourselves, and the growing population of generations to come. – November 20, 2017.

* Hafidz loves to ruffle feathers and believes in the EA Games tag line of challenging everything. Most times, he represents the Devil’s Advocate on multiple issues.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.

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