On the whole, I found the Waste Management Association of Malaysia's (WMAM) seminar quite boring and uninspiring which is why part 2 has taken so long to finally make it into the blogosphere.
Having said that, the second day was a bit more interesting than the previous one and opened with an overview of the government's Green Technology Policy, which was launched by the PM on 24 July 2009. As I'm not professionally involved in waste management I found this very informative. However I was surprised that the other participants, who were involved in the industry, didn't already know about the RM1.5 billion in soft loans that are available to fund green technology initiatives. The Ministry of Energy Green Technology and Water has identified four key sectors for the fund, namely: energy, water and waste management, building and transportation and I formed the opinion during the talk, that applications for water and energy projects would be particularly welcome.
The fund operates through local participating commercial banks with a Ministry of Finance / Bank Negara subsidy to keep interest at 2% per annum. The ministry is apparently hoping to receive applications from 150 companies by the start of 2010. I'll be keeping an eye on what projects eventually get funded so watch this space...
Next up was a presentation from Taylor, a UK based company who are reputably the world's leading manufacturer of waste and recycling containers. It's hard to imagine anyone getting too excited about bins but a large number of the participants from the local authorities and Alam Flora suddenly became very animated and asked a lot of questions after the presentation. This was more like a marketing exercise for his company's galvanised metal waste containers than anything else. I began to wonder what relevance this talk had to the seminar's overall theme of innovations in green technology to improve waste management. The only really innovative thing he announced was the launch of his company's new carbon neutral container. No disrespect to the speaker, he did a good job and was networking like crazy, but I would have thought that the local authorities and concessionaires would already have this information.
Surely they keep updated on products related to their industry as a matter of course, don't they?
The next topic focused on using organic waste as bio-stimulators to clean up hydrocarbon and other contaminants from the soil. The speaker from University Malaya (UM) had a tough job because the Seri Pacific Hotel, which was the venue for the seminar, decided to test their fire alarms just as he started. Poor guy! He valiantly tried to continue over the clanking fire bell and a public address announcement telling us not to be alarmed! His talk was quite scientific but the crux of his research is the use of organic waste like banana skins, spent mushroom compost and spent brewer's grain to reduce oil pollution and other soil toxins.
The final speaker of the morning was from Worldwide Holdings Berhad, who talked about landfill gas management. At present Worldwide are responsible for 2 inert landfills for items such as rubber tyres and plastic, which do not produce gas, and 5 additional landfills that do. I learned a few things from this presentation such as you need a minimum of 600 cubic metres of waste to harvest enough LFG to produce 1MW of electricity. This means at the present renewable energy tariff of 21sen per kilowatt hour you need to produce 2MWs to make LFG sustainable for generating electricity. According to the speaker, small landfills of say 10-20 acres are not viable for LFG utilisation, you need at least 60 hectares. Getting electricity from garbage sounds like a great idea to me. I visited Recycle Energy Sdn, Bhd. in Semenyih in September who are also producing electricity from garbage. They are currently getting 8MWs of electricity from the municipal waste they get from the Kajang municipality. If more companies concentrated on extracting energy from the garbage they should definitely qualify for a Greentech soft loan. The beauty of using garbage in the form of LFG or RDF (refuse derived fuel) to generate power is that you know it's going to be renewable - national garbage production increases every year as we consume more and more in the pursuit of our lifestyles, so there's little danger of a shortage of raw material. So instead of talking about hydro electric or nuclear power plants, which will have a destructive impact on the natural environment and people's lives, we should be looking at how much power we can get from the garbage and thereby kill two proverbial birds with one stone.
In the afternoon session there was a presentation from a consultant from YTL-SV Carbon Sdn Bhd on how carbon credits can be used to finance green technology in waste management. Carbon credits, more precisely known as Certified Emission Reductions (CERs), have been in operation since 1997 when they were introduced under the Kyoto Protocol. Malaysia is a signatory and several Malaysian companies, some of whom were at the seminar, are already benefitting: the Bukit Tagar landfill in Selangor operated by KUB Berjaya Enviro Sdn Bhd and the Seelong landfill in Johor operated by SWM Environment Sdn Bhd are just two examples. Although the speaker, was very knowledgeable and meticulous I felt this topic seemed a little off target for this audience and also wondered why it was included given that the carbon credit system as we know it is about to become defunct.
The main target of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, which started on December 7th and goes on to December 18th, is to get global agreement on the further reduction of greenhouse gas emissions once the Kyoto Protocol runs out in 2010.
The final two sessions of the seminar were devoted to the practical application of green technology at the Seelong landfill, which handles the garbage from Johor Baru, and producing fertiliser from kitchen waste using Effective Microbe (EM) technology. Both speakers from SWM Environment and UTM respectively were very engaging, but quite frankly, if this seminar aimed to showcase the cutting edge of green technology in Malaysia I fear for our future.
All in all I went through a kaleidascope of emotions during those 2 days: boredom, embarrassment, anger and ultimately frustration. Ultimately I felt it was more like a cartel get-together than a seminar. Most of the participants seemed to have the attitude that they were on a jolly 2 day rest from the office in a comfortable and cool venue with good food thrown in. I was shocked by how many people had left their mobiles on - some even made loud calls during the presentations and I was even more concerned that nobody else, apart from me, seemed bothered by this rude behaviour. So thanks again WMAM for allowing me to attend but please, next time can you make your seminar's a bit more eclectic and dynamic and insist that your participants put their phones on silent mode and at least pretend they are listening, and choose a warmer venue...but hey, the food was great!