Incineration not the way to deal with plastic waste, environmental NGO tells government

Reporters are seen during a visit to alternative fuel manufacturer ResourceCo Asia in Chemor July 17, 2019. — Picture by Farhan Najib
Reporters are seen during a visit to alternative fuel manufacturer ResourceCo Asia in Chemor July 17, 2019. — Picture by Farhan Najib

IPOH, July 19 — The government needs to study various options to deal with the plastic waste problem as burning waste in any form has adverse effects, says Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) president Meenakshi Raman. 

Meenakshi said that the government must not be deluded by these false solutions and instead take measures to prohibit the burning of plastic waste, whether in waste incinerators, cement kilns, make-shift furnaces or plastic-to-fuel operations.

“This is because the plastic waste burned will result in toxic emissions and toxic ashes which further spreads harm to the environment and threaten public health,” she said, in a statement.

On Wednesday, Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin said the government is looking into the possibility of turning plastic trash in the country into an alternative fuel and source for producing cement.

Zuraida said the ministry was looking at the technology used by ResourceCo Asia (M) Sdn Bhd in Chemor, which processes local plastic waste and imported dry materials such as plastic, papers, clothes and wood into an alternative fuel known as processed engineered fuel (PEF).

The minister also said they received another suggestion from a local company which uses “pyrolysis plasma” technology to incinerate plastic junk.

Zuraida said these technologies could help the government cut down the illegal plastic garbage piling up nationwide.

Meenakshi pointed out that SAM had previously protested the burning in cement kilns of imported waste and demanded the importing company, ResourceCo Asia, send back all the solid waste which was imported from Australia to its origin country. 

“This is the very technology that the Malaysian government is now considering to clear the un-recyclable plastic wastes that have flooded our country,” she said.

Meenakshi also questioned why Malaysia should host polluting disposal technologies and be exposed to pollution from the burning of other countries’ waste.

“Are emissions from cement kilns continuously monitored by the government or are our communities being subjected to these hidden dangers from the emissions?

“Even the best of air pollution control technologies may not be able to trap all the toxic gases,” she said.

Meenakshi said that waste burning or incineration releases a range of pollutants into the air, water and soil.

“The air emissions include carbon monoxide, greenhouse gases, acidic gases (NOx, Sulfur dioxide, HCl), dioxins, furans, heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium depending on the type of waste that is fed.

“Direct and indirect exposure to such substances, including through inhalation of contaminated air, direct contact with contaminated soil or water, or ingestion of toxins that enter the food chain can have adverse health impacts affecting the neurological, immune, reproductive and endocrine systems,” she explained.

Until an option to safeguards public health and the environment is found, Meenakshi said that the residual plastic waste should be stockpiled safely.

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