Waste-to-energy: The preferred approach for Malaysia’s waste management

WTE includes combustion, gasification, pyrolysation, anaerobic digestion and landfill gas recovery

by FAREZZA HANUM RASHID / pic TMR File

WASTE-TO-ENERGY (WTE) solutions are now recognised as a preferred waste treatment option for residual waste and a sustainable waste management approach in the country.

WTE can be defined as an energy recovery form where non-recyclable waste materials can be converted into usable heat, electricity, or fuel through a variety of processes. These include combustion, gasification, pyrolysation, anaerobic digestion, and landfill gas recovery.

Recognising this, the Housing and Local Government Ministry is planning to establish six WTE plants across Malaysia by 2025.

This is in line with the nation’s move towards the zero-waste status. Malaysia is actively playing a pivotal role in strengthening waste management and transforming environmental governance to better manage the environment and natural resources, including reducing its economic impacts.

These inititatives have been highlighted in the 12th Malaysia Plan 2021-2025 (12MP) as part of the country’s commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The blueprint also highlights the importance of establishing a circular economy as well as to achieve a National Recycling Rate (NRR) target of 40% by 2025.

Hence, the government is encouraging more integrated waste treatment facilities (IWTFs) to be constructed. The IWTF, which incorporates a material recovery facility to sort and separate waste, will be able to treat up to 95% of waste, leaving the remaining 5% to be disposed of at sanitary landfills.

WTE facilities can substantially contribute toward Malaysia becoming a zero-waste nation due to its hygienisation process of waste.

This process prevents the waste recycling cycle from the risk of contamination by polluted waste and diverts non-recyclable waste from landfills, dumpsites and open fires.

Moreover, the energy generated creates spillover benefits by supplying electricity and heat to neighbouring residential, commercial and industrial establishments.

To accelerate the transition of solid waste management from a linear economy to a circular economy, Malaysia is banking on WTE solutions.

Additionally, the establishment of waste eco-parks, development of waste management technologies and closure of all open landfills are encouraged in line with Malaysia’s commitment to becoming a net-zero carbon emission country by 2050.

According to the World Bank’s “What a Waste 2.0: A Global Snapshot of Solid Waste Management to 2050” report, global waste generation is expected to grow roughly by 3.4 billion tonnes per year by 2050.

This growing concern has sparked extensive discussions on the various aspects of waste management for the sustainable development of the global economy, environment and society.

In 2021, a total of 13.95 million tonnes of municipal solid waste was generated per annum in Malaysia, equivalent to 38,207 tonnes generated per day by household, institutional, commercial, industrial (excluding scheduled waste) and construction establishments.

This waste typically ends up at a landfill site if it is not recycled or reused, thereby requiring more landfill usage and unnecessary expansions.

The limited land and high cost of landfill facilitation operations have intensified the government’s environmental and financial concerns.

The Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) will assist both local and foreign investors by providing the necessary facilitations as well as support for the green technology industry to further strengthen Malaysia’s green ecosystem, building climate resilience and achieving global sustainable development goals.

Among the facilitations offered by the government include an Investment Tax Allowance for companies that intend to undertake WTE projects and integrated waste management projects.

MIDA also recognises the importance of environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles in decision making which has been highlighted under the 12MP as well as the National Investment Aspirations (NIA).

Thus, by incorporating ESG in business operations, it encourages Malaysia in driving an inclusive and sustainable green economy.


  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition