Malaysia should seek zero waste solutions and not incineration

CAP is frustrated with the Malaysian government’s continued push for incineration. Incinerators burn up and squander valuable resources, produce toxic emissions and residues, pose financial burdens to the public, and compete with waste prevention and recycling programmes that could have created jobs and benefited local economies.

The Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Chor Chee Heung had stated that an international request for proposals will be issued by the government for three incinerator plants to be built in Malacca, Johor and Kuala Lumpur.

In the past, proposals to build incinerators in Kampung Bohol, Puchong; Broga, Selangor; Melaka and Cameron Highlands had been met with public protest which had led to a few proposals being scrapped.  Attempts to build incinerators in Penang had also been quashed by communities and NGOs from the initial stages itself.  These groups have also been active in promoting source separation, reusing, recycling and overall waste minimisation.

CAP has been demonstrating composting of household organics and agriculture waste to consumers and farmers.  We also promote sustainable consumption and lifestyle, raising awareness of the general public on their purchases and disposal impacts to the environment and public health. The Green Crusaders, Don Theseira and Mylene Ooi, a couple from Penang, travel all over the country to demonstrate how to move towards zero waste. Likewise other civil society groups have embarked on many such initiatives to divert waste from the landfills and incinerators.

The Malaysian government is reportedly looking at removing recyclable materials from the waste stream, and thus reducing waste by 40%.  Another 40-50% of discards is organic waste which can be composted at source. Otherwise separate collection and processing of organics should be undertaken to complement recycling efforts.

We require a system of safe and efficient recovery of materials so that the discards that are inevitably produced are returned to nature or to manufacturing. Such a system operates through separating waste at its source in order to reuse, repair, and recycle inorganic materials, and compost or digest organic materials. There would be no necessity for expensive polluting technologies such as incineration.

In place of health-damaging and environmentally-destructive open dumps, landfills and incinerators, we urge the Malaysian government to adopt and implement policies that will prevent waste at source, reduce and eliminate toxics, extend producer responsibility, promote sustainable consumption, intensify recycling and composting, uphold environmental justice, create jobs and ensure a clean, safe, healthy environment and communities.

Letter to the Editor, 15 October 2012