AFES at the forefront of tackling Malaysia’s domestic waste

[email protected] is set to lead the way in recovery and recycling municipal solid waste to implement a circular economy model and commit to sustainability

by ANIS HAZIM / pics courtesy of Alam Flora

MALAYSIA produces nearly 1.14 million tonnes of domestic waste per month, enough to fill 400 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

It requires sustained effort at many levels to address the issue and among them is recycling.

Encouragingly, the recycling rate in Malaysia exceeded its target of 30% last year at 30.67% and following this performance, the government has aimed to achieve a 40% recycling rate by 2025 under the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP).

Taking note of the country’s ambition, Alam Flora Environmental Solutions Sdn Bhd (AFES), a fully-owned subsidiary of Alam Flora Sdn Bhd (Alam Flora), is stepping forward to strategise a few initiatives for the government and the public to a more sustainable pathway.

In a recent interview with The Malaysian Reserve (TMR), AFES COO Nazar Abdul Raof said it strives to take the reins of recycling for the country.

“For this, we have set up the largest Integrated Recycling Facility in Putrajaya, where about 500 tonnes of recyclable waste are processed per month.

“These recyclables are collected from residential areas, schools, offices and eateries,” he said.

“Under the Alam Flora Group, we have also set up and manage a waste management and recycling education centre for the public, known as Fasiliti Inovasi Kitar Semula or FIKS, where it provides 3R (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) awareness information. We also anticipate introducing its one-of-a-kind recycling project called [email protected] (Recovery Initiative Sustainable Eco-Facility) which is soon to be launched.

“Our next project will be a big-scale sorting centre called [email protected] which will purely focus on recycling and recovery. This will be the largest recovery centre in Kuala Lumpur.

“Our mission is clear, which is to increase recycling rate and save the planet,” he told TMR.

According to Nazar, [email protected] is set to lead the way in recovery and recycling municipal solid waste to implement a circular economy model and commit to sustainability.

“The facility is designed based on a semi-automated process to accept recyclable materials comprised of paper, plastic, light scrap, aluminium cans, beverage carton, glass bottle and e-waste that have been separated at the source from municipal solid waste generated either from single- or dual-stream sources.

“Next, the recyclable materials will be sorted to specifications, then baled and shredded for marketing to end-user manufacturers and reprocessed into new products,” he elaborated.

Nazar cited Europe as an example where waste is segregated systematically at source.

However, he noted that Malaysians may take time to get used to waste segregation as it is normally dumped together in a single bin.

“So, our strategy is to segregate only the dry and wet waste with [email protected] Either our team will collect the dry waste, or the public can send theirs to our [email protected] facility and get paid for it,” he added.

At the facility, all dry waste will go through a mashed process via a mechanical system and later be conveyed and segregated into groups such as paper and plastic.

“For example, plastic will go for another treatment like flakes. So, we are going to recycle the plastic and return it to the industry, and this is what we call a circular economy,” Nazar explained.

The circular economy offers to solve problems on current economic consumption, which relies heavily on the limited resources that lead to unnecessary waste.

Hence, the circular economy applies the 3R model that can change waste to greater value from their original materials.

This is something that AFES wants to achieve through [email protected] — to implement the circular economy model and commit to the Sustainable Development Goals No 12 — while supporting Malaysia’s ambition to achieve carbon-neutral status by 2050, Nazar added.

Moreover, he said the [email protected] project also aims to reduce waste sent to the landfills that have been overflowing in the country.

“We do not want the waste to end up in the landfills. So, our target is to diversify the waste, divert them from going to the landfills — which is one of the [email protected] main agenda.

“Currently, there are more than 140 solid waste landfills in Malaysia. Bear in mind that landfills are not meant to break down waste, but only to store the waste until it slowly decomposes,” he pressed.

The question is how to avoid sending waste to landfills that has been the most common method in waste management and remain so in many places around the world?

“Certainly, our recycling efforts have saved waste from going directly to the landfills, but this can be improved with a collective effort from the government, local housing and development, authorities, communities, residents and schools,” Nazar said.

Notably, separating waste from sources like homes, offices, restaurants or even large-scale festivals is a key component in the concerted effort to divert waste from landfills and maximise the recovery of recyclables.

“There are 2,860 tonnes of recyclables recovered in 2018, and 3,744 tonnes in 2019, which shows an increase of up to 31%.

“Meanwhile, in 2020, the total tonnage recyclables recovered was 4,127 tonnes, an increase of 11%,” he noted.

Therefore, AFES through [email protected] is committed to increasing the recycling rate in Malaysia as well as accelerating recycling and recovery business velocity in the country.

As of 2020, AFES reached 15% of the recycling rate and to achieve Malaysia’s target of reaching a 40% recycling rate by 2025 under the 12 MP.

Despite the pandemic over the past 2 years, recyclables at the Integrated Recycling Facility in Putrajaya has increased tremendously

Located in Kuala Lumpur, the [email protected] will be built in a warehouse-style facility and will include an education hub, an observation point and a weighbridge room.

It will also feature a materials recovery facility and AFES’s BuyBack Centre (BBC) that have been available in several locations in the Klang Valley and Pahang.

The BBC will allow the public to exchange their recyclables for cash and reward points where the staff will weigh the recyclable goods and payment will be made according to the weight and rate per kg of the item.

To carry out the recycling and recovering process at [email protected], AFES will utilise the semi-automated system that can sort lines, pack and shred the waste.

“We aim to bring it across Malaysia, focussing on cities or towns before going to rural areas,” he further said.

Moving forward, AFES is expected to carry out more of its sustainable solution plans.

“Chiefly, we are embracing the circular economy by building recycling facilities that are no longer using the linear approach of just waste collection and disposal.

“As our business model is towards providing sustainable solutions, we will invest in more sustainable facilities and better technologies to treat wastes so they will not have to go to landfills,” he told TMR.

In addition, AFES is also piloting a few research and development initiatives on the conversion of plastics to fuel, food waste to energy and the use of black soldier fly in the biowaste treatment while continuing to maximise the recovery of recyclables and reduce landfill waste

“This will require extraordinary effort in amplifying awareness through more outreach programmes in educating the public on the importance of waste separation at source and getting buy-in from the government, stakeholders, opinion leaders, partners, and companies to implement a structured and more stringent approach in reducing waste nationwide,” Nazar added.

He reaffirmed that AFES will keep striving with its sustainable initiative to solve the country’s waste problem.