by Roger Tan
|Not wasting time: Pushing for sustainable waste management, the writer (centre) standing beside Ho, who is leading the organising committee of ISWA 2018.|
FROM Oct 22 to Oct 24, an important world event, which took place at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, almost went unnoticed by the general public.
The event was the congregation of the best in the waste management industry at the World Congress of the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA). Some 1700 over participants from 64 countries took part.
Four years ago, the Waste Management Association of Malaysia (WMAM), the national member of the ISWA, led by its Chairman, Ho De Leong, had gone to great lengths to bid successfully for this most important annual event of ISWA to be held here.
Regrettably, when it came to the big day, the Housing and Local Government Minister, Zuraida Kamaruddin was not able to officiate it due to her parliamentary obligations. She was represented by her deputy, Datuk Raja Kamarul Bahrin Shah Raja Ahmad. However, the Secretary General of the ministry, Datuk Seri Mohammad Mentek, was most supportive by making an effort to be present at several sessions. The Secretary General of the Water, Land and Natural Resources Ministry Datuk Dr Tan Yew Chong was equally supportive. And what is most gratifying to note is that 99% of the participants who were surveyed said they were most satisfied with our beautiful Malaysia being the destination for this year’s world congress.
But then again, what is most alarming is Malaysians are generally ignorant about solid waste management. Most will immediately ask what is actually “solid waste”. In simple terms, it is any unwanted material or substance which is required to be disposed of, but does not include sewage, hazardous and radioactive wastes. The most common types are household and commercial solid wastes, that is, solid waste generated from a household or any commercial activity.
Malaysians too have little knowledge about or regard for generation, collection, transportation, recovery, treatment and disposal of solid waste. This explains why our drains and rivers are always clogged up by solid waste, and every day workers have to clear the litter trapped in floating booms installed in rivers throughout the country in order to prevent and minimise pollution and flood.
The situation is exacerbated by us generating more waste over the years. Three years ago, Malaysians generated about 19,000 tonnes of solid waste daily (TPD). Today, the figure has reached two-fold, 38,000 TPD. Out of this amount, waste separation and recycling rates only account for 24%. The remaining 76% goes to 160 landfills, of which about 15 of them are sanitary landfills. A sanitary landfill, unlike dumpsites, is a properly engineered landfill where solid waste is safely isolated from the environment with lining materials and designs to prevent leakage of leachate and contamination of groundwater and surrounding soils as well as making it possible for landfill gas to be captured and converted into a renewable energy resource. So, in developed countries, it is quite a common sight for golf courses and public parks to be built and landscaped on sanitary landfills that have been closed.