By Yamin Vong
Last Wednesday was a watershed moment in Kuala Lumpur’s waste management system.
The waste transfer station that is central to the efficient transport of a daily 2,200 tonnes of municipal waste from Kuala Lumpur to the Bukit Tagar Sanitary Landfill has been refurbished and was handed over to KL City Hall (Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur or DBKL) on that day.
Simultaneously, DBKL handed the Transfer Station which had undergone a year’s long re-fitting in stages to the Solid Waste Department of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government.
How long do you think this newly refurbished plant will last under the new Solid Waste Department? Will it have the depth of managers, engineers and line supervisors that DBKL’s Urban Services Department has and had acquired over the years?
What I observed at the newly re-built transfer station doesn’t inspire my confidence that the RM180 million facility built and donated by the Japanese government will be maintained at the level where it will deliver the 1,500 tonne a day installed capacity on a long-term basis.
The very fact that the DBKL has passed over the transfer station like a hot potato to the Solid Waste Department does not bode well for the Waste Transfer Facility. Hopefully, the early indicators are not a sign of the future and that this facility is going to be loved and well maintained.
Or is neglect a part of the agenda for the lobbyists who want a mega incinerator project?
A Waste Transfer station is designed and located to improve the efficiency of waste collection trucks. Instead of travelling a long distance to the sanitary landfill, the waste collector truck travels a relatively short hop to Kepong and disposes of its smelly cargo at Taman Beringin where the Transfer Station is located.
About 500 collector trucks dispose of about 1,700 tonnes of rubbish per 16-hour day, seven days a week at the Taman Beringin Waste Transfer Station.
The waste which is collected by trucks from residential units is discharged into hoppers which channel the waste into a bay where the rubbish is rammed into a 20-tonne container. The 40 foot long waste containers are docked into the compactor bay with a complicated system of locks and interlocks that have been designed for safety and compacting efficiency.
For Kuala Lumpur and the Klang Valley, a system of transfer stations and sanitary landfills is the most optimum treatment of municipal solid waste. It is the cheapest and minimises the impact on the environment.
In fact, KL and Selangor need another Bukit Tagar-sized Sanitary landfill in the Nilai, Sepang, Salak Tinggi, Dengkil vicinity. When traffic volume builds up and when the cargo volume justifies it, there should be a second transfer station for the southern part of Kuala Lumpur. In the interim, waste collection trucks can go directly to the sanitary landfill.
There are lobbyists who play on people’s thinking that incineration is the best. Actually, incineration is at least double the cost of landfilling. And that doesn’t take into account the cost of maintaining the electrostatic smoke scrubbers, and the plant’s waste transport system.
Remember the one kilometre of rubbish along Jalan Kepong about two years ago? It was caused when waste collection trucks just dumped their rubbish on the road. They were forced to because the waste transfer station had been suddenly shuttered by the contractor, Umpan Jaya.
On their part, Umpan Jaya, did not know the extent of the expertise needed to run a waste transfer station. Added to this, the waste transfer station had been over-used and maintenance insufficient , hardly the stuff needed to smoothly operate a sophisticated Japan-designed system of hoppers, containers and docking systems.
The compactor trucks had no alternative place to dump except along Jalan Kepong leading to the Transfer Station.
Different strokes for different folks
Sometimes it’s good to have a neighbour state to compare to. The Kelantan state government wants to study Kota Baru Municipal Council’s Park Regulations to see if it can ban unmarried youth of opposite sex to ride motorcycles together.
The implication is that the KBMC enforcement staff will check on young couples who ride motorcycles and chill at the KBMC’s parks. We already have cases of enforcement staff who abuse their position to extort sex or money from young couples.
To add religion to this mix would tarnish the reputation of the authorities. It would be better to leave moral policing alone. Religion is between man and his or her God. A human enforcer of religious laws would impose an impossibly huge burden of divinity on mere mortals.