Malaysiakini Letter

Do we really need an incinerator?

KTI  |  Published:  |  Modified:

LETTER | The question here is whether there is an urgent need to build an incinerator in Kuala Lumpur? How did the idea of an incinerator get mooted in the first place?

It all came about when the Taman Beringin Waste Transfer Station’s (WTS) exceeded its capacity of 1,500 tonnes per day. What is a waste transfer station and its functions? The solid waste from the Klang Valley is transferred to this WTS for compaction before being transferred to the Bukit Tagar Sanitary Landfill 50km away.

However, Klang Valley's solid waste has escalated to 2,500 tonnes per day and the current Waste Transfer Station is unable to cope with the escalation. The previous minister of the Housing and Local Government Ministry had then proposed a 1,000-tonne incinerator to be built at Taman Beringin to address the escalation of solid waste.

Surely, it would make more sense to just expand the capacity of the current waste transfer station to deal with the escalation of solid waste rather than to build a 1,000 tonne capacity incinerator (estimated to cost RM800 million) to burn 1,000 tonnes of waste and send the remaining 1,500 tonnes of waste to Bukit Tagar?

Report after report has stated that the Bukit Tagar Sanitary Landfill has a 100-year lifespan to address the Klang Valley waste problem. Does the question even arise whether an incinerator is urgently required? Surely in 100 years, we will be able to achieve the desired recycling rate thus prolonging the lifespan of the landfill.

Why is there an urgency to push incineration when recycling has not been aggressively and widely implemented? Is WTE the solution forward to solve the woes of solid waste escalation or are there alternatives but which lack the willpower to be pursued?

To our knowledge, the previous and current Department of National Solid Waste Management has visited incinerator plants in Japan or Singapore but though they have yet to visit the Bukit Tagar Sanitary Landfill to study the urgency and necessity of an incinerator. Perhaps it would be a good idea to visit this successful Zero Waste Management implemented.

History has proven again and again that locals are against incinerators which were first proposed to be built at Broga followed by Puchong and Taman Beringin. Why not propose a sustainable system as in the 4Rs (Reduction, Reuse, Recycling and Recovery) whereby the people can generate income from their household waste?

A good example would be the barcode system implemented by some recyclers whereby respective households are assigned with a bar code to record the type and volume of waste generated and collected. These households are then able to earn points from their waste and redeem their points for household grocery. This is a great initiative for recycling rate to increase. The data collected can be used to manage waste more efficiently and effectively.

Many small secondary industries have also sprung up as a result of recycling thus creating more jobs.

Furthermore, with the implementation of the Segregation of Waste at Source on Sept 1, 2015, under the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act 2007, the recycling rate should gradually increase.

A “2+1 collection system” has been implemented whereby the collection for residual waste will be done twice a week while the collection for recyclable waste and bulky waste will be carried out once a week.

Besides, incinerators kill off the recycling industry as operators of incinerators are able to purchase the waste for burning at a higher cost than the recyclers. This will undermine recycling. And yes, incinerators need waste to burn, especially plastic as in Sweden case whereby 86 percent of plastic is being burned.

To lobby for an incinerator with the tagline that an incinerator is able to produce heat and electricity is a lame excuse as methane from a landfill could be harvested for electricity as well. From Zero Waste Management, kitchen and yard waste can be converted to compost or environmentally friendly biofuel. The possibility of converting waste into secondary materials is endless and the income that could be derived from it is huge.

Granted, to change the mindset of the rakyat to segregate their solid waste at source and to adopt recycling is an uphill task. However, is this not a good time to start with the escalation of solid waste and a low recycling rate of 17.5 percent in 2017?.

What is needed is the willpower of our Department of National Solid Waste Management to push through the 4Rs as a priority to address the escalation of solid waste rather than incineration. By introducing regulations and policies as well as educating the public through roadshows and enforcement on the 4Rs, it is not impossible to push through Zero Waste Management.

Should we not change our mindset that waste is not just waste but a resource? Should we not explore the limitless possibilities of converting waste into secondary materials and industries thus saving our finite resources?

The writer represents the Kuala Lumpur Rejects Incinerator action committee (KTI).

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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