The Rise of Automotive Waste

Did you know that there are over 11 million inactive or dormant vehicles out of over 33 million registered vehicles in Malaysia?1  

That figure is even more than the country’s population which stands at 32.6 million, according to a June 2022 article published in the New Straits Times.2 

Since 2019, Road Transport Department Malaysia (JPJ) records show that the number of newly registered vehicles has increased by one million every year. 3

The issue of abandoned vehicles is gaining public attention because it is seen to have the potential to cause environmental pollution if not managed properly. To make matters worse, there is no end-of-life vehicle policy in our country. Therefore, it is not uncommon to own a 20-year-old car in Malaysia. 

So what happens to a car that has passed its road worthiness? How do owners dispose of a pile of aged metal safely and properly?

Malaysians face the issue of abandoned old cars as people just do not know what to do with their old, beaten-up vehicles and how to dispose of them properly. Oftentimes, these vehicles end up being abandoned after being unused for ages in many neighbourhoods. 

In 2019, based on information from JPJ, there were at least 60,000 abandoned vehicles nationwide. Factors that cause this problem are obsolete vehicles, difficulty in obtaining spare parts for repair and vehicle owners who are not knowledgeable about the process of disposing of these vehicles. 4 It is high time for us to find proper disposal methods for these vehicles so that they do not become junk and eyesores. 

Relative to this issue, many parts and components of these automobiles can be salvaged and even recycled for further use – this will address the issue of rising automotive waste that is produced yearly. There are a high number of scrap metal collectors who will remunerate people for metal scraps, once part of the construction of the car. Oftentimes, various components such as batteries, seats and other usable parts will be salvaged for refurbishment. 

The abandoned vehicles often contain wastes such as lead-acid batteries, lithium batteries, electronic components, asbestos brake pads, used engine oil, engine coolant and so on that need to be properly managed to ensure environmental sustainability. All these wastes need to be managed and disposed of properly at facilities licensed by the Department of Environment (DOE). 

In an initiative to help our country overcome this issue, the DOE has recently launched the Authorised Automotive Treatment Facility (AATF) Pilot Project. This project provides a sustainable approach in the disposal of vehicles. 

AATF is a facility that will carry out the disposal of components, especially components that contain scheduled waste from vehicles that have been deregistered by the Ministry of Transport Malaysia. The components will be segregated for reuse, recycling or recovery and final disposal. This facility is licensed by the Department of Environment (DOE) under Section 18, Environmental Quality Act 1974. 5

These efforts are in line with the National Automotive Policy 2020 that with the increase of more vehicle manufacturing and assembly plants in the country in the future, there is application of aspects of green technology to drive low carbon development in the country. 

How Heat Waves Affect Waste Management 

There are significant impacts of climate change already occurring in Malaysia. In recent years especially, we have experienced increased frequency of droughts and floods as well as a rise in sea levels in coastal areas. 

These extreme weather changes are expected to have numerous environmental and socioeconomic effects which not only worsen existing environmental issues but also reduces quality of life. 

Existing environmental pressures on natural resources are expected to intensify as we progress into the future. Agriculture will be further threatened by droughts and floods while rice yields are expected to decline by 60%. Other potentially impacted products include rubber, palm oil, and cocoa. Annual drought probability which currently lies at 4%, may increase to 9%.1

Major contributors of climate change

One of the major contributors of climate change is the increasing need for electricity. Demand for electricity grew 64% in the decade prior to 2017 while fossil fuels remain the primary fuel for electricity generation. In 2017, over 44% of electricity was produced from burning coal and 38% from natural gas. Besides that, deforestation, particularly for palm oil and natural rubber production, is also a major contributor to the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. 2 

Temperatures are rising rapidly

Greenhouse gases, or GHGs, are compound gases that trap heat or longwave radiation in the atmosphere. Their presence in the atmosphere makes the Earth’s surface warmer. This gives rise to more storms and extreme weather events which are closely related to temperature, such as heatwaves and extremely hot days. 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. Scientific studies indicate that rising temperatures are likely to increase the annual occurrences and intensity of heatwaves with human-induced climate change. Climate warming also increases evaporation on land, which can worsen drought and create conditions more prone to wildfire and a longer wildfire season.3

Hot weather affects waste management 

In countries like Malaysia with specifically hot weather, there are adverse effects on the biological processes of solid waste and the physical operation of landfills as well as the health and well-being of solid waste facility workers and populations exposed to solid waste. 

The biggest problems are foul odours, pests and overflowing trash that wreak havoc on routine waste collection activities. Heat and humidity allow bacteria to grow faster and smells to travel further. The bad odour attracts pests which become a sanitary nuisance and property hazard for businesses.

Besides that, the hot weather can turn landfills into a real dumpster fire. During the COVID-19 pandemic, large-scale cleanouts of hazardous and flammable materials surged; and with that dumpster fires and explosions. 4 

The high-speed, machine-heavy process of sorting trash from treasured recyclables is a known fire risk. Under high heat conditions, items such as aerosol cans, propane tanks, batteries, e-waste, fertilizers, liquid chemicals and other fluids can spontaneously combust. All it takes is a little heat and friction and in the driest conditions, a single cinder from a cigarette butt can ignite a blaze. 

Between January 2019 to January 2022, the Malaysian Department of Environment (DOE) received over 19,000 complaints on open burning, as reported by The Star. 5 

According to the DOE, the increased incidence of fires is associated with hot and dry weather. Some key initiatives by the DOE include:

  1. Stepping up enforcement on open burning by increasing compounds and investigations on offences under Section 29A of the Environmental Quality Act 1974
  2. Adopting smart enforcement by using technologies such as thermal drone monitoring to detect hotspot areas even at night
  3. Using technology for sampling of toxic gases using multi-gas analysers, mobile automated continuous air quality monitoring stations to detect air quality
  4. Fire Prevention Program – increased ground patrol and drone activities for monitoring and enforcement

What can we do as consumers to reduce our carbon footprint?

There are many ways we can be more conscious of our environmental footprint as consumers. A few simple ways as shared by The Grantham Institute 6 include:

  • Cut back on air travel where possible. Consider video-conferencing options for work and trains for same country travels
  • Walk or cycle. Car sharing options are also a good way to reduce GHG footprint
  • Turn off appliances or lights when not in use. Replace light bulbs with LEDs or low energy lights. Ensure our homes are energy efficient
  • Help to conserve green spaces like local parks especially in urban areas
  • Avoid single-use items and fast fashion
  • Repair and re-use where possible. Give unwanted items to charity or sell them. 

Let us know what are some other ways we can consider to reduce our carbon footprint in the comments. 

Switch to Re-Refined Oil to Reduce Carbon Footprint

What is Re-refined oil?

Re-refined oil is a good-as-new base oil derived from used motor oil in which contaminants have been removed. This base oil is then sold to blenders who add additives to it to produce lubricants in the form of motor oil, transmission fluid and grease. There is an entire industry focused on re-refining fluids, which presents a huge opportunity to realize financial savings as well as offer the benefit of a clear environmental conscience.

Re-refined oil represents the responsible choice for the environment. 

Re-refining used motor oil helps minimize and avoid emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) as compared to GHG levels when extracting or processing crude oil. Studies show that the life cycle carbon footprint associated with re-refined base motor oil is 81% lower than virgin stock-derived base motor oil. The results also revealed that the most significant advantages of re-refining occur during the base oil production and waste management life cycle phases. 1 

Based on the ‘2009 Greenhouse Gas Savings Study Report’ written by Conestoga-Rovers & Associates on behalf of the British Columbia Used Oil Management Association (BCUOMA), 3.65 kg CO2e carbon dioxide is saved per litre of re-refined oil as compared to crude oil; 1.02 kg CO2e  carbon dioxide is saved per litre of fuel oil compared to crude oil; 1.09 kg CO2e carbon dioxide is saved per each filter collected compared with using iron ore; and 2.11 kg CO2e  carbon dioxide is saved per 1 kg of used oil container that is recycled compared with using new plastic.

As an added advantage, re-refined oil is priced competitively to regular motor oil. Buying re-refined oil reduces consumer dependence on imported oil, the depletion of natural resources and helps create jobs locally. 

Despite these benefits, we still face certain challenges popularizing the use of re-refined oil. Currently, only a small volume of the market uses re-refined oil, while the majority of the market uses crude oil. This is due to the misconception that re-refined oil is less superior than crude oil. However, in reality, the American Petroleum Institute (API) had already recognised the quality of re-refined base oil to be on par with virgin base oil when proper technology is used. Many major government and private fleets in the US had used re-refined lubricants in their vehicles for years and had concurrently reported no difference in performance from virgin lubricants. 2

The other challenge comes from the lack of awareness among waste generators who dispose of waste without proper screening. In this case, they tend to pick the highest bidder for used oil or the lowest bidder for the containers and filter waste to help them dispose of their waste. Fraudulent waste collectors and waste recycling companies who do not recover waste through proper technologies and mix harmful chemicals to sell as recycled fuel oil have also been reported to be present collecting scheduled waste in the market. Thus, fuelling a negative impression towards re-refined oil. 

In Malaysia however, we had always practiced strict control and licensing when it comes to schedule waste management. Our government agencies made tremendous efforts to ensure that the best practices are properly enforced to eliminate the occurrence of fraudulent used oil recyclers. Besides strictly requiring waste management companies to be licensed, the Department of Environment (DOE) had also created detailed guidelines on determining and classifying a product generated from recovery, or recycling or reconstituting processes of waste oil.

At Pentas Flora, we collect used engine oil and re-refine it to make eco-friendly base oil which is then used to make high quality products such as gasoline, petrol, diesel and fuel oil. The re-refined oil produced in Pentas Flora, such as Eco light fuel oil, Super light fuel oil, and others provide the best energy consumption at the best rates. Having years of experience in the production of our very own brand of oil, we are professionals in performing petroleum re-refining, ensuring that our clients get the best quality of oil for their use. 

For more information on our re-refined oils, read here

Recycling and Disposal of Lithium Batteries

Large lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) are used in the hundreds in electric vehicles (EVs) today. Like our mobile phone batteries, they are bundled together to function as one. 

For technology to be sustainable in the near future, it is no longer viable to discard products that can no longer serve their original purpose. EV batteries are expensive and loaded with limited raw materials like lithium and cobalt that are harmful to dispose of. These parts are also at risk of exploding when piled up in landfills under heat.

These batteries should be first repurposed to be reused for a different function such as charging stations or stationary energy storage to power factories, residential buildings, hospitals and others.


The battery’s remaining capacity is reused for a secondary application. This requires several processes to ensure it is safe to be reused. Car makers today are investing in repurposing opportunities in order to have control over the secondary use applications and to ensure they are reliable and financially viable.

Although this emerging industry of EV battery repurposing may not be as attractive as EV manufacturing and assembly or as popular as EV battery manufacturing, this is an important area to focus on as any part of the EV value chain. 


The functioning modules and cells in refurbished batteries are used for application in another EV battery, where the battery can be easily recovered and has not been damaged or discharged. 

Tesla and Nissan offer refurbished battery packs for warranty replacement of original battery packs in electric vehicles, according to Drive Safe & Fast Malaysia1. Tesla claims 60% of its battery components are recycled, with 10% used to build a new battery case for an EV. 

Toyota has hooked up old batteries to solar panels to power convenience stores in Japan. Meanwhile, Korea’s trade ministry partnered with LG Chem to produce portable battery packs (power banks) using discarded EV batteries. 

These are examples of how used LIBs can be given a second life and recycled. However, the issue still remains that the recycling rate of EV batteries today is low, with many still ending up in landfills leaching toxic chemicals that pollute our soil and rivers. 

In Australia, only 2–3% of LIBs are collected and sent overseas for recycling. In the EU and US, the rates are less than 5%.2

It is time to get serious about recycling lithium-ion batteries. A projected surge in electric-vehicle sales means that researchers must think about conserving natural resources and addressing battery end-of-life issues. Industry analysts predict that by 2020, China alone will have generated some 500,000 metric tons of used Li-ion batteries and that by 2030, the worldwide number will hit 2 million metric tons per year. 

This photo shows a Chevy Volt battery pack and three small batteries propped up on top of it: one of the Volt battery’s 288 pouches along with batteries from a cell phone and an iPad.

Most of the batteries that do get recycled undergo a ‘smelting’ process under high-temperature melting and extraction. Despite the high costs to build and operate, these large commercial plants don’t recover all valuable battery materials. Additionally, sophisticated equipment is required to treat the emissions generated by the smelting process. 

Driven by the enormous quantity of spent Li-ion batteries expected soon from aging electric vehicles and ubiquitous portable electronics, start-up companies are commercializing new battery-recycling technology. More scientists have started to study the problem – some battery, manufacturing, and recycling experts have begun forming large, multifaceted collaborations to tackle the impending problem.

Waste Management – Path to Sustainable ESG Management

Importance of ESG Criteria

The approach to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues has shifted from being viewed by some as a public relations tactic to being seen by many as a major focus area for boards and management teams. There is a broad consensus that companies which manage, measure, and monitor their ESG matters proactively, are more likely to deliver sustainable growth.

Some of the main objectives and benefits of ESG analysis and reporting include the provision of valuable insights on non-financial elements which could have significant impacts on financial metrics, hence enabling more informed investment decisions.

Companies stand to lose substantial investment opportunities without environmental, social and governance (ESG) compliance, which has become an increasingly important criterion for inclusive, equitable and sustainable growth. It makes good business sense as it leads to sustainable development for both companies and the communities.

Many economic experts believe that it is necessary for corporations to transition from corporate social responsibility (CSR) to ESG, given the increasing attention and emphasis investors are paying to ESG compliance. CSR alone may not address the overall negative impact the business may cause in many cases.

Enhancing ESG Frameworks 

Identifying three to five ESG criterias that align to business strategy is a good base off where companies can start building an ESG framework. Even though the measurements may vary across platforms and industries, these are some common areas monitored within the three areas of Environmental, Social and Governance factors.

The application of the ESG standards can be enhanced by providing better transparency and thorough reporting via quantifiable metrics collected and reported regularly to address ESG gaps in the business, material risks and growth opportunities. 

Companies can adopt the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) ESG standards to achieve this.1 

Waste Matters for ESG Investors

A circular economy needs businesses not just to maximise recycling and minimise waste but to fundamentally re-engineer their products and services.

It identifies three main elements to building a circular, as opposed to linear, economy: 

  • Design out waste and pollution
  • Keep products and materials in use
  • Regenerate natural systems

This means products need to be designed for a cycle of disassembly and reuse, rather than waste. They need to be created from natural materials and then returned to natural materials at the end of their life. In effect, the circular economy replaces the concept of a consumer with that of a user.

This also means being efficient in the use of water, energy and materials, reducing packaging and raising recycling rates, and asking consumers to consider sustainability as a critical factor in their purchasing decisions.

Recent research from management consultants Accenture found that the potential economic benefits from the circular economy could be as high as $4.5 trillion by 2030. It also makes sound financial sense. As resources become scarcer, their price goes up. Those dependent on them to make their goods face higher costs and that is unsustainable over the long-term.2

As of early 2022, listed companies are gearing up towards fulfilling the ESG and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) requirements given more comprehensive global compliance. Most companies are already expanding ESG compliance to encompass the 17 SDGs which serve as an indicator for companies overall growth. 3

5 Ways We Can Manage Maritime Waste in Malaysia

Waste management has traditionally dealt with downstream disposal operations. A life-cycle approach, by contrast, offers a new perspective that involves every phase, i.e., from the prevention and reduction of waste generated to the actual handling of wastes. Waste handling includes the collection, transportation, monitoring, and treatment (re-use, recycle, energy recovery, and final disposal, e.g., landfill) of wastes including the after-care of waste facilities.1

Unsafe management and disposal of ship wastes can readily lead to adverse health consequences. Humans can become exposed directly, both on ship and at port, as a result of contact with waste that has not been managed in a safe manner. Additionally, there is a risk of transforming ship-source marine pollution into land-based pollution.

Exposure can also occur via the environmental transfer of disease-causing organisms or harmful substances due to unsafe disposal. However, waste can be managed and disposed of in ways that can prevent harm from occurring.

Risks of harm arising as a result of improperly managed ship waste are increasing with the greater number of ships in service and the increase in habitation in port areas. Waste streams on ships include sewage, greywater and garbage, as well as effluent from oil/water separators, cooling water, boiler and steam generator blow-down, medical wastes (e.g. health-care wastes, laboratory wastes and veterinary-care wastes), industrial wastewater (e.g. from photo processing) and hazardous waste (radioactive, chemical and biological wastes and unwanted pharmaceuticals).2

Most collected types of marine waste in Malaysia in 2019 (in 1,000s)



What measures can we take to address maritime waste?

  1. National cooperation

Marine litter and plastic pollution are serious issues in Malaysia. The nation is working to enhance collective efforts towards long-term cooperation to address this challenge. At a regional level, Malaysia plays an active role as a member of the Coordinating body of the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA) and the ASEAN Working Group on Coastal and Marine Environment. These platforms are useful vehicles to strengthen national work on marine debris and plastic pollution.

  1. Policy implementation nationally

National policy-level intervention is also underway, such as the implementation of the ‘Malaysia Roadmap Towards Zero Single Used Plastics, 2018- 2030’ (October 2018).3

  1. Deploy innovative technology

Malaysia is also seeking opportunities to deploy technologies to address the issue of plastic pollution from enforcement to finding alternatives. We must recognise that apart from reduce, recycle and reuse, the focus should also be “replace”, which requires the application of new technologies and alternatives such as environment friendly polymers.

  1. Apply waste management hierarchy  

The management of ship wastes must also follow the waste management hierarchy, that is, the priority order that ranks “waste prevention” as the most desirable option followed by preparation for re-use, recycling, other recovery operations and final disposal. 4

  1. Increase awareness and education

Increasing awareness, education, capacity and resourcing is also considered important to tackle marine plastic pollution at source. The country is working to enhance the cooperation among NGOs, the private sector and international partners, to address the issue holistically, together with the Government. 

Governance of Maritime Waste Management in Malaysia

According to Sea Circular (2020), Malaysia is located in the Indo-Pacific region with its coastlines bordering the Andaman Sea, the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, the Gulf of Thailand, the South China Sea, the Sulu Sea and Sulawesi Sea. The length of the coastline in Malaysia is 8,840 km (2018), and there is a coastal population of 22.9 million. As a maritime nation with resource-rich seas and invaluable mangroves, atolls and coastal areas, the clean and pollution-free seas are a matter of life and death for Malaysia.

Malaysia has responsibilities for the prevention and control of marine pollution both as a coastal state and as a flag state. As a coastal state Malaysia must prevent and regulate all types of pollutants (not only oil) that come from all sources of pollution (vessel-based, land-based, from air space, sea-bed activities, dumping and others) in its entire maritime territory.

Marine pollution, mainly discharge of oil, bunkers, harmful substances, pollutants and wastes from ships and offshore platforms into Malaysian waters and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is governed through the following legislation:

• Merchant Shipping Ordinance 1952
• Merchant Shipping (Liability and Compensation for Oil and Bunker Oil Pollution) Act 1994
• Environmental Quality Act 1974
• Exclusive Economic Zone Act 1984

Merchant Shipping Ordinance 1952
The Act prohibits the discharge of oil or harmful substances by any ship into Malaysian territorial waters and renders persons at fault to fines, imprisonment or both. Harmful substances mean substances which if introduced into the sea are liable to create hazards to human health and harm living resources and marine lift, damage amenities or interfere with the legitimate uses of the sea.

Environmental Quality Act 1974
The Act prohibits the discharge of any kind of waste or pollutants into inland waters and territorial waters. Pollutants are defined widely from natural or artificial substances in solid, liquid or gas form. This includes environmentally hazardous substances as well as any objectionable odour, noise or heat with a propensity to cause pollution directly or indirectly.

Merchant Shipping (Liability and Compensation for Oil and Bunker Oil Pollution) Act 1994
This Act addresses loss and damage caused outside a ship by contamination resulting from the discharge or release of oil or bunker oil from a ship in Malaysian waters. It covers compensation for the impairment of the environment and costs of reasonable measures to be reinstated.

Exclusive Economic Zone Act 1984

Sometimes referred to as EEZ, this Act provides for measures to preserve the environment and addresses marine pollution in waters beyond Malaysian internal waters and territorial seas in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The EEZ covers the sea extending two hundred nautical miles from the baseline at which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured. Any deliberate dumping of wastes or other matter, whether oil or pollutants from vessels, aircrafts, platforms or man-made structures in the EEZ is prohibited. Should any oil or pollutant be discharged into the EEZ, the owner of the vessel, aircraft or the installation from where it escaped from is strictly liable unless they can prove the discharge was necessary and reasonable for the saving of life and property. In any event they shall bear all clean up and costs of removing or mitigating the damage. 1

MARPOL (The International Convention for Prevention of Marine Pollution for Ships): The Ultimate Guide

MARPOL is one of the most important global conventions which safeguards the marine environment against ship pollution. The main objective of what is known as the MARPOL 73/78 Agreement, in force at present, is to achieve the complete elimination of intentional marine environment pollution by hydrocarbons and other harmful substances, and to reduce the accidental discharging of such substances.2

Malaysia is a party to a number of international conventions dealing with marine pollution. As a party, Malaysia is duty bound to comply with these international statutes and to adopt national legislation as necessary in order to implement these conventions within its territory. 

According to the Malaysian bar council, Malaysia needs to regulate all ships flying its national flag to be in strict compliance with safety regulations and requirements under international conventions and International Maritime Organisation (IMO) resolutions for the prevention and control of marine pollution. Tankers registered in Malaysia need to follow requirements under MARPOL 73/78, and the 1990 OPRC Convention (International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation).3

Achieving Sustainable Development Goals from Waste Management – Pt II

Promoting social and economic inclusion for informal waste management communities

(SDG 10 – Reduce inequality within and among countries)

Waste management contributes to achieving economic and social integration in developing countries and reduces inequalities. 

In many developing countries, it is divided into two main systems namely the formal and informal systems, each of them affects the economic growth processes to varying degrees. Therefore, the merger between the formal and informal SWM sectors will support the reduction of social and economic inequalities for all.

Solid waste management (SWM) to enhance the quality of life

(SDG 11 – Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable)

According to the United Nations, there were 2 billion people without access to waste collection services globally and 3 billion people who lacked controlled waste disposal facilities according to data collected between 2010 and 2018.6

This indicates a lack of quality of life for cities and the sustainability of local communities. Certainly, good waste management practices like waste reduction, reuse, recycling, and exploitation in generating energy or safe disposal of it are essential for sustainable city management and improvement in quality of life. 

SWM and “sustainable consumption and production patterns”

(SDG 12 – Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns)

This calls for an efficient management of our shared natural resources, and the way we dispose of toxic waste and pollutants. Introducing Integrated Solid Waste Management (ISWM) which refers to concepts that reduce production and control consumption patterns, such as moving towards the circular economy model based on recycling of materials and converting useful waste into resources. That supports the use of fewer natural resources in manufacturing processes. It can also be said that adopting the concept of extended producer responsibility which requires companies to collect and recycle the waste generated from their products is one of the applications of the green circular economy concept.

Solid waste disposal and climate change measures

(SDG 13 – Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts)

According to the World Bank, the world generates 2.01 billion tons of solid waste annually, and at least 33% of it is not managed in an environmentally safe manner. Without improvements in this sector, emissions related to solid waste will probably increase to 2.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2050. 7

Greenhouse gases such as methane emitted from solid waste are a major factor in air pollution and climate change. In 2016, 5% of global emissions were generated from solid waste.8 

This calls for the need to improve solid waste disposal in most parts of the world, as the safe disposal and the reduction of open burning of garbage are one of the most important climate change-related measures.

SWM to “conserve the oceans, seas, and marine resources”

(SDG 14 – Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, sea and marine resources for sustainable development)

According to UNDP, we hope to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution by Year 2025. However, we are now facing plastic waste as one of the biggest threats to the oceans. Global production of plastic reached more than 300 million tons in 2014. Much of this plastic has ended up in the oceans, where plastic waste accounts for 90% of marine debris, damaging wildlife and harming marine ecosystems.8 The environmentally sound management of solid waste and its safe disposal, especially plastics, can certainly reduce damage to the oceans. 

SWM impacts land ecosystems

(SDG 15 – Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss)

Preserving the earth’s ecosystem means we have to safely dispose of the solid waste we produce. An integrated and sustainable waste management system from the source that includes the concepts of the 5Rs (refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose and recycle) in addition to a circular economy model, are widely accepted approaches moving forward. 

Reducing waste production reduces the need for land utilized for waste disposal. This reduces the harsh impacts of untreated waste on soil, water and air.

Integrated SWM and institutional building strengthening

(SDG 16 – Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels)

Delegating and sharing responsibilities between central governments and local administrations, in addition to partnerships with the private sector, civil society organisations and others in the system will ensure that decisions are made in a manner that is responsive, inclusive, participatory, and representative at all levels. 

Many developing countries have turned towards decentralisation and are adopting an integrated solid waste management system in order to improve efficiency, protect local interests, strengthen participation of its populations and ensure the availability of resources needed for the success of SWM programs and projects. 

Partnerships between different parties and sectors

(SDG 17 – Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development)

The participation of multiple parties in the SWM system is one of the most important points that the system aspires to. 

The transformation from the traditional government sector to the government as a partner through multilateral partnerships between the private sector, non-governmental organizations, and the local community has become inevitable and necessary for the success of the SWM system. 

Clearly, there is an interrelationship between waste management and the SDGs, with greater impact related to certain goals more than others. 

Achieving Sustainable Development Goals from Waste Management – Pt I

Achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 is among the agenda for countries across the globe. 

This is important not just to manage the various economic, environmental and social impacts that threaten the ecology of our population but to also realise the benefits that come with achieving the goals. 

From the perspective of solid waste management (SWM) and its plans and programs, there is an interrelationship with varying degrees of impact towards the 17 SDGs, whether the effect is directly or indirectly.1

For example, the goals of “sustainable cities and communities” and “good health and well-being” came in the lead of impact towards the goals; however, the goals of “quality education” and “peace, justice, and institutions” came in the tail of the goals that are affected by SWM plans and programs, according to the experts’ opinion.2

How can solid waste management contribute towards the sustainable development goals?

Waste and poverty rates 

(SDG 1 – End Poverty in All its Forms Everywhere)

Did you know that millions of people in developing countries earn their living from recycling or reusing waste? 

Many developing countries aim to integrate the informal sector in SWM systems into their formal waste management strategies – which will have an impact on reducing poverty rates within this sector. 

For example, municipal administrations that collect the garbage can charge collection and recycling fees, making money in the process. This will also discourage institutions that generate a lot of waste, making them sustainable and more responsible to the environment.

Organic waste and food security

(SDG 2 – End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture)

Only 13.5% of the world’s waste is recycled and 5.5% turned into organic fertilizer.3  

Recycling organic waste is a huge opportunity to produce large quantities of organic fertilizers that improve the quality of crops and raise the rates of agricultural productivity in countries. This supports the provision of safer and more nutritious food throughout the year and reduces the proportion of the world population suffering from hunger. 

Solid waste management processes and ensuring a healthy life

(SDG 3 – Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all)

Garbage collectors are still exposed daily and on a continuous basis to the dangers of disease and infection as a result of improper practices of sorting and recycling these hazardous waste.

Proper management of medical waste inside health facilities – whether by incineration or sterilizing and shredding – can greatly reduce the transmission of infection and the transmission of pathogens. 

Ensuring quality education for waste management communities

(SDG 4 – Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all)

According to a 2019 United Nations report, 617 million children and adolescents lack a minimum proficiency in reading and mathematics and 750 million adults still remain illiterate.3 

We must address child labor and lack of funds for education within the community managing solid waste by providing technical and vocational education for them, especially in developing countries.

Achieve gender equality and empower all women in solid waste management

(SDG 5 – Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls)

The goal is to end all forms of discrimination against women and girls everywhere besides eliminating all forms of violence in the public and private spheres and other types of exploitation. According to the UNDP, one of the goals is to undertake reforms to provide women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws. One of the ways is to provide awareness of the importance of adopting safe practices on sorting solid waste, thus proper job opportunities based on solid waste recycling can be directed at women.

Additionally, provision of medical assistance to women who get infected and the inclusion of young adult girls in schools to allow them to practise recycling for a paid fee while ensuring their continuation in the educational system is one way to contribute to this goal.

Dumping solid waste and provide clean water

(SDG 6 – Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all)

One-third of plastic waste ends up in the soil or freshwater. Plastic never degrades, but rather breaks into tiny particles less than 2.5 mm in size known as nano-plastics, which break down further into nanoparticles and that becomes part of the food chain. 

Fresh drinking water gets contaminated with these plastic particles, causing various diseases of cancer origin and hormonal disorder4. Certainly, reducing pollution caused by hazardous wastes dumped in or near waterways increases the chances of obtaining higher quality water. 

Energy recover from solid waste

(SDG 7 – Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all)

Scientific development in managing solid waste has led to the billions of tonnes of waste we produce to be viewed as alternative sources of energy. 

The concept of generating energy from waste is based on chemically treating solid waste to produce energy – waste is currently the third growing renewable energy source worldwide, after solar and wind – to more than half of the renewable energy used globally5

This is why many countries have invested in research and development and plan on a large scale to recycle garbage and convert it into energy.

Solid waste management and decent work for all

(SDG 8 – Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all)

The human resources of the informal sector in the SWM system and its accumulated experience in this field supports the promotion of economic growth by increasing the productivity rates of various SWM sectors.

These activities, industries, and small enterprises that are based on recycling operations of solid waste produce great decent job opportunities for the informal sector.

Recycling projects to stimulate industrialization and foster innovation

(SDG 9 – Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation)

Recycling materials create opportunities for various industries. It also stimulates innovation in industrial activities, leading to efficiency in usage of raw materials and elimination of wastage.  All of that can support growth and innovation, and even reduce production costs especially in manufacturing processes.

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