Global Partnership on Waste Management


Submitted by Penang State Government

(Note: Penang State Government did not prioritize areas of capacity-building)

Summary of information
Highest priority waste streams
1. Organic waste
2. Municipal solid waste
3. Waste plastics
Highest priority areas of capacity building
Narrative summary
Penang State Government’s responses to the needs assessment survey show that the state’s priorities lie with the better management of MSW. Waste segregation within MSW, especially of organic and plastic waste, is inadequate. Waste segregation needs to be made part of policies and public awareness campaigns. However, the responses also suggest that the country potentially has a sound economic infrastructure for waste management. Waste policies should encourage the participation of the private sector, in particular the very competitive recycling industries. Nevertheless, private sector practices should be carefully monitored by the government, especially regarding technical procedures such as the recovery of precious metals from e-waste.

Organic waste
Organic waste management has the highest priority ranking for capacity-building in Penang, Malaysia. There is potential to be found in firstly minimizing the quantities of organic waste, given that according to the responses, food and biodegradable waste account for between 40 to 60% of municipal solid waste (MSW). Due to poor understanding by the general public of the benefits of waste segregation, mainly governmental institutions take the initiatives in organic waste management. Although an organic waste policy is in the process of being drafted, institutions still lack certain capacities. On the one hand, funds to procure waste collection equipment are lacking, while there are no markets for compost and organic products. Coordination is needed between institutions and with the private sector in order to secure resources. On the other hand, encouraging waste segregation at source by the public will also require awareness-raising and educational campaigns. Hence, capacity-building in the areas of policy-making and technical understanding by all stakeholders would significantly reduce the amount of organic waste disposed simply as MSW.

Municipal solid waste (MSW)
MSW management is ranked as a very high priority for Penang, Malaysia. The Solid Waste Management Act (2007) has privatized all waste collection and public cleaning services in the country, but for the states of Penang, Selangor, and Perak. According to the responses, municipal councils in Penang are responsible for between 80 to 90% of waste collection activities. For Penang, therefore, strengthening is needed among municipal institutions. Different municipalities need to collectively set standards and coordinate management systems to improve MSW management. Funds are needed for waste collection equipment, especially given that waste management is considered an increasingly costly activity for the state. In the near future, pilot projects on waste segregation at source will be undertaken, but they need to be supported by adequate resources for data collection, management, and analysis. In the absence of privatization, therefore, public environmental authorities in Penang need to be strengthened.

Waste plastics
The management of waste plastics is also seen as very important to Penang, Malaysia. Currently, waste plastics are not segregated from other wastes by generators, and plastics are found in various waste streams. There is much room for improvement therefore with regards to public awareness; educational campaigns directed at local communities would be valuable.  Although improvements in waste collection technology and institutional coordination are required, the responses suggest that these improvements do not necessarily have to be made by the state government. There exists a very competitive recycling industry that may be able to take part in the management of waste plastics. Nevertheless, public awareness remains a focal point for capacity building.

Industrial waste
In Penang, Malaysia, industrial waste is managed by both the public and private sector. Scheduled waste (generally more hazardous) is managed by the Department of Environment, while non-scheduled waste is managed by the private waste sector through a system of auctioning, where haulers, recyclers and vendors are involved. Both sectors, however, could build their technical capacities. A set of technical guidelines aimed at industrial waste management in both sectors may be needed. The monitoring of the industrial waste management system is also not perfectly comprehensive, given that dumping activities are sometimes not reported to authorities. Improvements in technology and the identification of gaps in waste management are thus needed.

As a party to the Basel Convention and under the Guidelines for the Classification of Used Electrical and Electronic Equipment in Malaysia (2008), the country does not import e-waste, although second-hand electronic equipment may be imported. The country only exports e-waste if recovery facilities that address any deficiencies of local facilities are available overseas, and only after being subject to a case-by-case review system. In Malaysia, e-waste is managed by the private sector (although overseen by the Department of Environment). An auctioning system contracts e-waste management to groups such as Dell, whose Community Collection Programme works with municipal councils in waste collection.

The responses suggest that firstly, environmental institutions need to be strengthened. Policies such as the Voluntary Take-Back Scheme for waste from imported electronic equipment are weakly implemented, generally due to the financial unsustainability of initiatives. The scheme requires consumers to pay recyclers to recover precious metals in e-waste and is thus poorly supported; the amount of e-waste treated by the recycling sector is low. Consequently, the sector is currently at times over-competitive and chaotic, and requires better oversight by the Department of the Environment. Secondly, technical capacity can be improved. Recyclers do not always have access to up-to-date technologies and guidelines; only wet chemical processes and electrolysis is currently in use to recover precious metals, and e-waste hazards are not always understood. Recyclers also require better infrastructural support, such as collection centres for different types of e-waste. Thus the technical development and oversight of the private sector by authorities is a priority.

Hazardous waste
Hazardous waste is managed by the Malaysian Department of Environment in Penang. Firstly, policy enforcement is an area in which capacity-building appears pressing. There is no effective system of collecting hazardous waste from households (public awareness is low), while coordination within the Department is poor. The responses therefore suggest that hazardous waste regulations should be complemented by a more comprehensive policy framework for more effective implementation. Secondly, technological capacity also requires strengthening. The state would welcome technological assistance on hazardous waste minimization strategies, including the use of alternative chemicals and the redesigning of products with a “life cycle” focus to ensure a decrease in hazardous waste generation. Waste recovery and recycling strategies could also be improved.

Healthcare waste
Healthcare waste management is not ranked as a high priority for Penang. Healthcare waste management is contracted to the private sector; specific waste management firms are appointed by the government. The responses suggest that the system is effective because hospitals and clinics generally segregate healthcare waste to be collected by the firms. Nevertheless, the public is generally unaware of the hazards of mismanaged healthcare waste. There is thus potential for capacity-building in creating public awareness of the issue.

Waste agricultural biomass (WAB)
WAB management is not ranked as a high priority in Penang. Crop farms and plantations (such as palm oil plantations) generally already practice WAB management. WAB in livestock farms (chicken and pig farms) are regulated by a zero-discharge policy. The policy demands the complete prevention of WAB, such as manure, by the farmers themselves, under threat of the closure of the farm. Despite clear measures in WAB management, improvements can still be made. WAB management can also take place on a larger, centralized scale to reduce costs to individual farms. The introduction of technology to treat a greater variety of WAB and for different uses (such as energy) is also possible.