Recycling in Penang

Waste generated in Penang statewide is estimated to be about 1,800 tons/day. From this, about 600-800 tons/day are generated from Penang Island and about 400-600 tons/day from Sbg Perai. Others are from private contractor directly disposing their waste at the landfill. All wastes are transported to Pulau Burong Landfill. The landfill is about 33 hectares in total area and it will last for the next 3 years. The landfill management is now on the process of expanding for another 28 hectares, and it is estimated to last for another 10 years. With this rate of waste generation, landfill will be filled up within 13 years and after that another landfill has to be identified.

From data available for Penang, organic waste constitutes about 40-60% of total waste and a large proportion of this is from kitchen waste, discarded food and garden waste. In order to expand the life of landfill, it is only prudent to reduce the amount of such waste going to the landfill thereby saving costs in terms of collection, transportation and treatment in the later stage. In order to achieve this, a number of measures must be considered such as diverting food waste at source and turning it into a high value resource or product. This also avoids methane emission which is a result of burying organic waste in the landfill.

The State’s Organic Waste Policy seeks to further reduce and divert solid waste from the Pulau Burung Sanitary Landfill by processing the organic waste fraction into useful by-products such as compost, bio-liquid fertilisers, refuse derived fuel (RDF). This will save the State Government cost of transfer and transportation in the long term. The long-term aim is to eventually, divert all organic waste from the landfill. The European Landfill Directive places targets on Member States to reduce the quantities of biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) going to landfill. By 2016 BMW going to landfill must be reduced to 35% of the total amount of weight of BMW produced in 1995.

In Penang, we have taken baby steps for diversion of organic waste from the landfill but it is going in the right direction. For example, in August 2011, I have used my allocation as a municipal councilor to purchase a Bio-regen machine for the Bayan Baru Hawker Complex. It has successfully been operated by the Municipal staff up till now and has processed ……………… tons of food waste material from 31 out of 141 hawker stalls (22%). This means a reduction of (0.9 x ……. = ….   ) CO2 equivalent into the atmosphere. We process about 100- 150 kg of food waste daily and this has yet to expand to all the hawker stalls and market waste.

The presence of organics in landfills has been a major source of methane generation from landfills. Methane is a major greenhouse gas. The leachate from food waste is also a bio-hazard and attracts vermin and pest such as flies and rats which spread leptospirosis.

Ideally, all organic waste especially food waste should not be transferred from place to place to curb the spread of diseases. It should be treated and processed at source. For this year, I will be using part of my allocation to purchase another machine to be installed at the Taman Sri Nibong recycling centre currently operated by Tzu Chi Buddhist Merit Society. They have successfully implemented a very comprehensive recycling programme. With the installation of the Bio-regen machine, they will have completed the organic and inorganic waste loop in the 3Rs. They are now on the way to become a Zero Waste Community.

I urge the MPPP to start Zero Waste projects throughout the island which also deals with the food waste issue. I understand that that are Bio-regen machines successfully installed in 4 schools and various other places. These have been successfully operated because they are low maintenance and easy to operate. For example, SM Heng Ee has been processing about 100 kg of canteen food waste. They have a population of about 3000 including students and teachers. The students and even the teachers are encouraged to bring food waste from home. This means that if everyone brings in food waste, 3000 households are involved.

I urge MPPP to allocate an annual budget to tackle this problem. I urge all councilors to start having food waste processing projects in food courts, hawker centres, wet markets and other places such as high density residential areas. The more places that have facilities to treat food waste will make Penang cleaner and more hygienic. If this happens there will be little need for us to close down eateries and restaurants for not meeting the Council’s standards of hygiene.

Another matter, related to food waste FOG (Fats, Oil and Grease) which are constantly emptied into the drains by food outlets and eateries throughout Penang polluting the drains which eventually run into the river, sea and other waterways.

Enforcement has been slack and many food businesses do not install grease traps or have non-functional grease traps. These can easily be tackled at source especially during inspection before license renewal. There are already technologies such as the Bio-regen machine that is able to tackle FOG or even functional grease traps available in the market that meets the SIRIM standards. I also understand that the Engineering Dept as well as JPS have some kind of standards that defines a functional grease traps. The Licensing Dept must work together with these departments to ensure that the problem of FOG is solved.

There are also currently available in the market; organic cleaners available for the kitchen and even car wash; that would benefit the environment as these comprise beneficial microbes that when used will not only pollute our waterways but in fact become more environment friendly as opposed to chemical ones. Car washing detergents should be treated before being discharged into drains as they also used for FOG.

I urge MPPP to look into these environment friendly alternatives which may be just as efficient and cost effective as chemical ones but are non-polluting!

All our efforts to curb the indiscriminate dumping of food/ kitchen waste, treating it at source and diverting it from the landfill will ensure that Penang will be cleaner, greener, healthier and safer not only for its residents but also visitors.