Scrap incinerator project in Cameron Highlands


The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) objects to the installation of the thermal treatment plant in Cameron Highlands as it would poison our environment, bodies, and food supply with toxic chemicals. There are alternatives to incineration which are cheaper, more flexible and better for the environment.

The Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment Report of the proposed thermal treatment project in Cameron Highlands states that the proposed technology was tested using a pilot plant. This reveals that the proposed technology derives largely from a laboratory experiment and is unproven in large-scale, real-world situation.

Since there is no existing actual data of emissions performance, feasibility and cost-effectiveness for a thermal treatment plant of similar capacity as the proposed plant in Cameron Highlands, how can it be assured that the plant would perform and be able to comply with emission standards?

We are concerned how an assessment can be made based on assumptions and without any actual indication whether the air pollution control system which is going to be installed would work. A flawed assessment based on assumptions would bring about negative consequences to public health and environment.

Every thermal treatment plant emits a cocktail of chemicals in its operational life.  These emissions are sometimes in large quantities, as during an upset or unauthorized release and sometimes in small quantities.

incinerator1Although incinerator fumes pass through expensive filter systems, modern incinerators still emit significant levels of nitrogen oxides and of ultrafine particles. Nano-particles are of great concern because they can pass through the lung lining, causing internal inflammation and penetrate organs (even to the foetus in a pregnant mother).

Some chemicals like dioxin and dioxin-like compounds which are cancer-causing agents are released in trace quantities, which the industry normally states as “insignificant” amounts. Because of dioxin's toxicity and persistence, even minute traces are known to be the most dangerous. These amounts build up in the environment, human tissue and fat and consequently become a larger amount within the body and environment. So for pollutants such as dioxins, any amount of emissions is unacceptable.

There is plenty of evidence that emissions from incinerators and their ashes are potentially harmful.  Cancer, birth defects, reproductive dysfunction, neurological damage, respiratory ailments and other health effects are known to occur at very low exposures to many of the heavy metals, organochlorines and other pollutants released by incineration facilities.

Many pollutants released in incinerator air emissions have been shown to accumulate in and on food crops. Thus it is of grave concern to the Malaysian consumers as Cameron Highlands is a major source of vegetables. While thorough washing of produce may remove a portion of pollutants on crop surfaces, a significant amount will remain.

We need to put a stop to dirty waste disposal technologies such as thermal treatment plants and landfilling. No public money should be used to fund projects that will end up releasing greenhouse gases and other environmental pollutants.

We urge the government to cancel the building of the incinerator project in Cameron Highlands. Rather than incinerating waste, local authorities should focus on waste minimisation, maximise composting, safe recycling or providing separate food and organic waste collection for treatment by composting. The area proposed for the incinerator in Cameron Highlands can be converted as a material recovery facility.

Press Statement – 16 June 2010