The amount of solid waste generated in Malaysia is steadily increasing and the government is currently focussing on methods to approach the challenge.
Due to growing population and increasing consumption, the amount of solid waste generated in Peninsular Malaysia an average of 0.8 kilogram per capita per day.
In Kuala Lumpur waste generation is about 3,000 tons a day and forecasts show that this will increase further in coming years.
Modern lifestyle has led to more acute waste problems, convenience products generally require more packaging, improvident habits associated with greater affluence lead to greater quantities of waste, as demonstrated by discarded wrappers from the inevitable fast food outlet, and the modern day waste contains a higher proportion of non-degradable materials such as plastics.
Approximately 95-97% of waste collected is taken to landfill for disposals.
The remaining waste is sent to small incineration plants, diverted to recyclers/re-processors or is dumped illegally.
Environmental awareness is building up within the Malaysian government as well as in
The government has adopted a National Strategic Plan for Solid Waste Management with emphasis on the upgrading of unsanitary landfills as well as the construction of new sanitary landfills and transfer stations with integrated material recovery facilities.
The local authority in most of the municipalities in Malaysia is responsible for the collection service of solid waste, even though some municipalities or city hall (for example Kuala Lumpur City Hall) has outsourced to private companies.
The Solid Waste Management Act, 2007 will drastically change the structure of solid waste management in Malaysia and to open up for the development of a completely new business sector.
New concessions on for example domestic waste management will be introduced, recycling is expected to be highlighted, and handling of specific types of solid waste like plastic, paper etc. is likely to be included.
Solid Waste Management
Solid waste management is a priority area under the 9th Malaysian Plan, as can be seen by the intention of the government to set up a Solid Waste Department which will be entrusted to enforce the Solid Waste Management Bill.
As the economic activity and population increases, the management of solid waste is becoming a serious problem in all municipalities. Public health, air pollution, odour disturbance, hazardous gas emissions are among the common phenomena occurring in urban areas. In general, MSW disposal requires an adequate environmental control from waste collection to disposal and finally regular monitoring of disposal sites.
To manage the solid waste in an efficient manner, four functional element interrelationships should be practiced well before the final disposal decision. According to, the first function element is the material generated at the source.
Materials that are no longer considered as having value are discarded as waste, and the quantity and the characteristic of that waste depends on the source.
The second function element is waste handling, separation and storage at site.
Wastes are separation before placing into the store containers. Paper, plastic, cardboard, ferrous metals, aluminium cans are some of these components.
This action is very important before moving to the next point (collection).
In collection, solid waste is picked up and placed into empty containers with separate parts for recyclable materials.
Then, the collection vehicles collect the waste around the disposal centres manually before disposing into the disposal sites.
Open Dumping and Land Filling For Disposal of The Solid Waste
For many decades, all municipalities in Malaysia have practiced the open dumping and land filling for disposal of the solid waste. Landfills still cover 60 to 90% of the served areas, and are projected to cover more than 75% in the near future, with 80 % of the waste disposal sites having less than two years of remaining operating life.
Land filling is done almost solely through this method and open dumping is being practiced and takes place at about 50% of total landfills.
The landfills sites can categorised into five types according to the landfill stages such as, (i) open dumping sites, (ii) open tipping site, (iii) landfill with bund and waste disposal covered with layer of suitable cover materials, (iv) landfill equipped with pipe system for leachate recirculation and aeration, and (v) sanitary landfill.
There are 161 landfill sites available across Malaysia and only six landfills or 3.7% are in the sanitary landfills category, while 77 landfills still practice open dumping and have in an adverse impact on the environment and public health.
The implementation of waste management hierarchy approach in developed country is very common.
For example studies by Arner, Cooper , Clarke, Habitat, Hoorneg, and Thurgood  discussed the successful implementation of the waste management hierarchy for solid waste management.
The limitation of data and information for waste management hierarchy in Malaysia has placed a barrier for the Government to implement this approach.
With regards to this problem, the government has plan to upgrade some of the existing landfill sites to sanitary landfills, build ten new sanitary landfills and 18 transfer stations during the Ninth Malaysia Plan.
These efforts are seen as further steps taken by the government in reaching the sustainable solid waste management in Malaysia for the short and middle term solution.
In the Seventh Malaysia Plan (1996–2000) on the other hand, the government purchased seven mini-incinerators with a capacity of 5 to 20/tonnes/day to operate in the resort Islands in Labuan, Tioman, Pangkor and Langkawi with a cost estimated at RM17 million.
Due to scarcity of land and high solid waste generation rate, especially in the central region of Peninsular Malaysia, the government opt to install three incinerator plants of large capacity in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Pahang.
Composting method is another option for solid waste disposal. Another potential method to handle the solid waste generation is recycling activities.
Recent studies revealed that, less than 5% of the total (almost 10,000 tonne/day) is actually separated and recycled, although a large amount of Malaysian waste has potential to be recycled.
In response to these critical phenomena, the government has take further initiative to relaunch the recycling campaign on 2nd December 2000 with a targeted 22% of waste recycled by year 2020.
Anaerobic Digestor Plant
As part of the initiatives under Entry Point Project Nine of the National Key Economic Area Greater KL/ Klang Valley, The Department of National Solid Waste Management will commence the construction of an anaerobic digestor plant to treat food waste from hotels and restaurants.
The Department of National Solid Waste Management, Director General Datuk Dr. Nadzri Yahaya was quoted when was interviewed by BERNAMA in May 2012, as mention that the agency is in the midst of identifying a suitable site in Kuala Lumpur and he assure that the site for the plant would be finalised by the end of the year.
The anaerobic digestor plant, to be constructed under the private financing initiative would have a minimum capacity of 50 tonnes of food waste.
The plant cost would depend on the proposal which was yet to be determined.
A food waste study, conducted by the department and concluded in November 2011, recommended the appropriate approach for food waste treatment such as a biogas facility.
Food waste is the second largest category of solid waste sent to landfills.
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Source : BERNAMA; Sakawi, Zaini, Municipal Solid Waste Management In Malaysia: Solution For Sustainable Waste Management, Journal of Applied Sciences in Environmental Sanitation, 6 (1): 29-38, (Mar. 2011); Tarmudi, Zamali, Abdullah. Mohd Lazim & Md Tap. Abu Osman, An Overview of Municipal Solid Wastes Generation in Malaysia, Jurnal Teknologi, 51(F) : 1–15, (Dis. 2009) Othman, Jamal, Economic Valuation Of Household Preference For Solid Waste Management In Malaysia: A Choice Modeling Approach, IJMS 14 (1), 189-212 (2007); Yahaya, Nadzri, Solid Waste Management In Malaysia -Policy Review, Issues and Strategies, (2007)
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