Listed as the 25th most competitive economy in the world1, Malaysia engages in an exceedingly wide variety of industrial activities such as construction, mining, quarrying, and manufacturing, and these activities may lead to the production of hazardous waste. These hazardous wastes are classed as ‘scheduled waste’, scheduled waste refers to any wastes that possess hazardous characteristics and have the potential to adversely affect public health and the environment2.
Scheduled wastes in Malaysia come from a variety of different sources. These include hospitals, dry cleaners, factories, agriculture, paint manufacturers, petrol storage facilities, automotive servicing, and other industries. Scheduled wastes are unavoidable as it is a by-product of several industries, as such the treatment and disposal of scheduled wastes must be properly managed to avoid the risk of these hazardous materials seeping into our daily lives and contaminating the soil or water supplies.
In 2020 it was recorded that the amount of scheduled wastes produced by industries were 7,185.2 thousand metric tonnes, a 79% increase compared to 2019 where the amount of scheduled wastes recorded was 4,013.2 thousand metric tonnes3. A contributing factor to this could be the COVID-19 Pandemic, the quantity of clinical waste generated in 2020 rose 18.1% to 39.9 thousand metric tonnes as compared to 33.8 thousand metric tonnes in 2019.
Three states in Malaysia recorded the highest amount of scheduled waste production, namely:4
1. Selangor at 28.5%;
2. Johor at 16.8%; and
3. Negeri Sembilan at 16.2%.
The Environmental Quality Act of 1974 (“EQA”) is one of the primary pieces of legislation governing scheduled waste, the Act was administered by the Department of Environment under the Ministry of Natural Resources and it is a provision relating to the prevention, abatement, control of pollution and enhancement of the environment. The relevant sections which refer to the management of scheduled wastes include:
1. Section 34B (the control of scheduled wastes);
2. Section 22 (air pollution control);
3. Section 24 (soil pollution control);
4. Section 25 (water pollution control); and
5. Section 29 (the control of wastes disposal to Malaysian waters).
Following the amendment of the EQA in 1996 section 34B provides strict provisions which cover the control of exporting and importing scheduled waste, which include a penalty of RM500,000.00 or 5 years imprisonment or both for the illegal trafficking of scheduled wastes. Sections 22, 24, 25, and 29 all state that no person-shall, unless licenced, has the permission or authority to pollute or contaminate the air, soil, or water sources with scheduled waste, unless the Minister, after consultation with the Council, specifies that it is acceptable as outlined in Section 21 of the EQA.
Other relevant regulations include:
1. Environmental Quality (Prescribed Activities) (Environmental Impact Assessment) Order 2015;
2. Environmental Quality (Prescribed Premises) (Scheduled Wastes Treatment & Disposal Facilities) Regulations, 1989;
3. Environmental Quality (Prescribed Premises) (Scheduled Wastes Treatment & Disposal Facilities) Orders, 1989; and
4. Environmental Quality (Prescribed Premises) (Scheduled Wastes) Regulations, 2005.
In Malaysia, the EQR interprets ‘scheduled waste’ as any type of waste falling within the categories of waste listed in the First Schedule of the Environment Quality (Scheduled Wastes) Regulation 2005. There are 77 types of scheduled wastes listed within the First Schedule of the Environment Quality (Scheduled Wastes) Regulation 2005, which are compartmentalised into 5 categories, namely:
1. SW 1 – metal and metal-bearing wastes;
2. SW 2 – wastes containing principally inorganic constituents which may contain metals and organic materials;
3. SW 3 – wastes containing principally organic constituents which may contain metals and inorganic materials;
4. SW 4 -wastes which may contain either inorganic or organic constituents; and
5. SW 5 – other wastes.
The lack of technical knowledge of handling scheduled waste may be a hindrance to solving this problem, and could be a reason as to why some industries do not dispose their scheduled waste in the proper mandated manner as prescribed in the Environmental Quality (Scheduled Wastes) Regulations 2005 (“EQR”). Section 8 of the EQR clearly puts the onus on the individual/entity who generates the scheduled waste (“waste generator”) to ensure that the scheduled waste produced by them must not only be disposed of correctly but also stored and treated in the prescribed manner as outlined in Section 9 and 10 of the EQA.
(1) Every waste generator shall ensure that scheduled wastes generated by him are properly stored, treated on-site, recovered on-site for material or product from such scheduled wastes or delivered to and received at prescribed premises for treatment, disposal or recovery of material or product from scheduled wastes.
(2) Every waste generator shall ensure that scheduled wastes that are subjected to movement or transfer be packaged, labelled and transported in accordance with the guidelines prescribed by the Director General.
Section 9 of the EQR outlines the proper method of storage which waste generators must abide by, Section 9(5) states that scheduled wastes can be stored for 180 days or less depending on the amount of scheduled waste generated, so long as it does not exceed 20 metric tonnes. If the waste generator would like to store more than 20 metric tonnes of scheduled waste, Section 9(6) states that the waste generator may make an application to the Director General of Department of Environment Malaysia to ask for permission to do so – and if the application is deemed acceptable the Director General may grant a written approval either with or without condition, as outlined in Section 9(7) of the EQR.
As scheduled waste comprises of various hazardous waste products, the management of scheduled waste must be meticulous to ensure it is treated and disposed of correctly, as such in addition to Section 9, Section 10 of the EQR goes on to provide the manner in which scheduled waste must be labelled for proper storage. Section 10(1) provides that the storage container must be labelled with the following details:
1. the date of waste generated;
2. the name of the waste generator;
3. the address of the waste generator; and
4. the contact number.
Furthermore, not only must the container contain the 4 criterion above but also should be clearly labelled in accordance with the type(s) of scheduled waste it holds, as stated in section 10(2) of the EQR.
If the waste generator would like treat or manage their scheduled waste beyond the confines of Section 9 above, Section 7(1) of the EQR allows for the waste generator to make a written application for ‘special waste management of scheduled waste’ and upon acceptance the Director General may grant an approval, with or without specified conditions for the actions:
(1) A waste generator may apply to the Director General in writing to have the scheduled wastes generated from their particular facility or process excluded from being treated, disposed of or recovered in premises or facilities other than at the prescribed premises or on-site treatment or recovery facilities.
(3) If the Director General is satisfied with the application made under subregulation (1), the Director General may grant a written approval either with or without conditions.
Malaysia established a waste management centre in compliance with the EQA and EQR to appropriately handle scheduled waste and counteract improper dumping practices and combat contamination which could lead to pollution and result in harming our quality of life. Kualiti Alam was established in 1991 and it owns and runs Malaysia’s only fully integrated hazardous waste handling facility. Kualiti Alam is authorised to handle 76 of the 77 scheduled wastes mentioned in the EQR – except for radioactive waste, pathological waste, and explosive waste. Kualiti Alam offers a diverse range of waste management solutions such as: incineration facilities, physical and chemical treatment plants, solidification treatment plants, secure landfills, and clinical waste treatment centres.
The regulations for the control of scheduled waste in Malaysia are reflective of the ‘cradle-to-grave’ principle5 where generation, storage, transportation, treatment and disposal are regulated. This concept focuses on the disposal component and as such creates a linear cycle of waste management. The cradle-to-grave concept neglects resource recovery, and minimizing waste generation, in this case scheduled waste to be specific.
However, in recent years there has been a focus on zero waste emissions, as such there has been a movement to a ‘cradle-to-cradle’ principle. The ‘cradle-to-cradle’ principle was coined by Professor Dr. Michael Braungart6, and it is a principle which depicts the continuous and presumably limitless cycling of materials – creating closed-loop cycle as opposed to the liner cycle of the cradle-to-grave principle.
In the cradle-to-cradle principle, materials which are chemically inert and recyclable can be repurposed once they are properly treated. Thus minimising the scheduled waste products in landfills.
To encourage effective waste management, Malaysia has provided incentives for the storage, treatment and disposal of scheduled waste. The incentives include pioneer status incentive for five years to companies which are principally engaged in an integrated operation for the storage, treatment and disposal of scheduled wastes7.
Although Malaysia has a comprehensive legislative framework and government assistance for proper waste management for scheduled waste, concerns of improper dumping, contamination, and pollution persist. Malaysia must continue to pursue a ‘closed loop cycle’ approach when it comes to waste management, reusing and recycling scheduled waste rather than filling landfills and perpetuating a linear cycle of scheduled waste disposal.
Waste generators within the various industries in Malaysia must commit to disposing of and processing their scheduled waste in accordance with statutory regulations, as well as upcycling/recycling their waste products when possible.
- https://www.imd.org/centers/world-competitiveness- center/rankings/world-competitiveness/.
- https://notionconsortium.com/schedule-waste- management/.
- Compendium of Environment Statistics, Malaysia 2021 (https://www.dosm.gov.my/v1/index.php? r=column/cthemeByCat&cat=162&bul_id =VFRCSEtSRlRWWmxoNlRLTTYrb1FVdz09&menu_id =NWVEZGhEVlNMeitaMHNzK2htRU05dz09).
- https://www.remondis-sustainability.com/en/inspiring /cradle-to-cradle/.
- https://epea.com/en/about-us/cradle-to-cradle#: ~:text=Cradle%20to%20Cradle%C2%AE%20is, innovation%2C%20quality%20and%20beneficial %20design.
- https://mida.gov.my/wp-content/uploads/2020/ 12/20200914160203_BOOKLET-7-ENVIRONMENTAL- MANAGEMENT-SERVICES.pdf.
Siti Fitrah Mohamed Jamal & Loni Lee (email@example.com)