“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” – the government´s “Three R´s” campaign promoting waste recycling is familiar to most Malaysians. Yet, progress has been painstakingly slow. In 2015 segregated waste collected in all Malaysian states amounted to just 15 percent of solid waste collected nationwide. The overall recycling rate stagnates at 17.5 percent, far below that of neighbouring Singapore (59 percent) or European countries like Germany (62 percent). But with environmental concerns becoming an increasingly pressing issue, the government is now taking a more decisive stance on waste management.
Since June of this year the law on waste segregation is being actively enforced in all signatory states to the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing act, including Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Pahang, Johor, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Perlis, and Kedah. Already more than 50.000 written warnings have been issued to households not complying with the country´s waste segregation law. Under this law, residents have to separate waste into categories such as plastic, paper, glass, metal and food remains. For the first time now, cases of non-compliance will be fined, while a first offence incurs only a RM50 (12 USD) fine, subsequent failure to comply with the regulation can cost up to RM1000 (250 USD).
In addition to the current waste segregation system, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry plans to introduce a legal framework on household electronic waste (e-waste) management and control by 2018. As of now, an ever growing volume of e-waste is being deposited at landfill sites. According to a report by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment, the amount of private e-waste amassing raises by 14 percent per annum. The urgently needed e-waste management program is currently being developed in cooperation with the Japan Cooperation Agency and will closely mirror the industrial e-waste disposal system having already achieved a more mature stage.
For investors specialized in recycling and environmental technology, the recent trend towards environmental friendliness bears great potential as Malaysia heavily depends on foreign technology to manage its growing pile of rubbish. The country´s first recycling plant for e-waste is set to take up operations in June of 2017. The plant belongs to the German company Andritz MeWa and has the capacity to recycle up to 100,000 tons of e-waste every year. Another example of a fruitful cooperation is the partnership between the government-related palm oil producer Felda Global Ventures Holdings Berhad (FGV) and the California-based Newlight Technologies LLC. The project aims at recycling Felda´s biomass waste to bio-degradable plastics. Should the project be successful, Felda plans on introducing the new waste management system at five more facilities over the coming years.
As population numbers continue to rise, waste management becomes an urgent issue all across the region. Local governments are increasingly aware of the long-term environmental threats in the climate change-prone region and have become more proactive in managing environmental and waste issues, backed by the United Nations and the Asian Development Bank´s agenda for sustainable development. In particular, demand for expert consulting, environmental and smart technology will thrive over the coming decade. Companies involved in these business areas are well advised to take a look at the needs of the ASEAN market.