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State of Waste Management in South East Asia

B. Industrial Solid Waste

As mentioned earlier, most of the ASEAN countries handle and treat industrial solid waste together with municipal solid waste. This means that the same methods are used, which would comprise of open dumping, landfilling, and incineration. However, in those countries where there are few waste management facilities, the industrial solid wastes are often dumped on private land, or buried within or close to the premises of the industrial facility where they have been generated. There are concerns that some hazardous waste may be disposed along with non-hazardous industrial solid wastes, which are collected and deposited in municipal landfills and open dumps. However, data is lacking on the quantities and characteristics of these wastes. In most of the ASEAN countries, except in the Philippines where a new law (R.A. 9003) was recently passes (2001), there is no specific legislation requiring separate management of industrial waste from municipal solid waste.

C. Hazardous Waste

Many ASEAN countries are in the early stages of industrialization and many of their industries lack the capital needed to invest in waste treatment systems or to replace old equipment with modern technologies. In order to save costs many industries import outdated second hand equipment despite government prohibitions and guidelines, e.g. Vietnam’s Law on Environmental Protection (1993), which bans import of technology that does not meet environmental standards. However, a number of ASEAN countries have laws mandating various aspects of hazardous waste management, such as, the methods of handling, treatment and disposal of hazardous wastes.

The most acceptable method of disposal for hazardous wastes is through the use of sanitary landfills as practiced in Malaysia. Although hazardous waste incinerators have been developed in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. In the case of the Philippines, one facility for treatment of metal finishing wastewater available on Cebu Island and an incineration plant for medical wastes is found in Laguna. In the rest of the countries in the ASEAN region there is usually co-disposal of hazardous waste with municipal solid waste in open dumps, including, perhaps, storage of toxic wastes in sealed containers.

Singapore uses off-site hazardous waste management facilities for recovery of 65 percent of the waste. It sends 29 percent of the waste to an integrated hazardous waste management facility for treatment and disposal and exports 3 percent to Europe.

Thailand has a hazardous waste management program for its petrochemical, chemical and non-ferrous industries, which produce 250,000-300,000 tons annually of commercially viable waste along the Eastern Seaboard. A hazardous waste treatment plant managed by the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand has been also established. In addition, Thailand has five existing central facilities for industrial hazardous waste recovery and disposal that is licensed by the Department of Industrial Works. These consist of three secured landfills with a total capacity of 635,000 tons per year, two plants of secondary fuel and material recovery in cement kilns having a total capacity of 2.73 million tons per year, one solvent recovery plant with a total capacity of 15,000 tons per year, one chemical and solution treatment plant having a capacity of 2,500 tons per year, one used/obsolete chemical and hazardous treatment plant with a capacity of 2,500 tons per year and one electronic recycle plant with a capacity of 20 tons per year.

In Malaysia, the Bukit Nanas Integrated Waste Treatment Plant has facilities for high-temperature incineration, physical and chemical treatment, stabilization and a secure landfill. In 2000, some 84,000 tons of hazardous waste were treated in this plant.

Box 1
Integrated Hazardous Waste Treatment Plant at Kualiti Alam, Malaysia

The treatment facility was officially opened in November 1998. Modeled after the Danish hazardous waste processing plant, Kommunekemi in Nyborg, it is the first integrated facility for the processing of hazardous wastes in Malaysia. The owners of Kualiti Alam hold a concession for treatment of all hazardous wastes in Peninsula Malaysia for 15 years. More than USD70 million has been invested in the facility.

The facility receives all types of hazardous wastes except hospital and radioactive wastes. Organic wastes are burnt in the incineration plant. Acidic and basic organic fluids are chemically treated to neutralize them. The residues from chemical treatment and other solid inorganic residues are bound with lime and cement before being disposed in a double membrane lined landfill, which should have capacity for waste residues storage of up to 20 years.

Companies are required by law to inform the authorities on the types and quantities of hazardous wastes they generate and associated collection, storage and processing methods used. In addition, the companies have to pay for the services on the basis of the polluter-pay-principle.

Indonesia has developed a centralized hazardous waste treatment facility in West Java to treat hazardous wastes from Jakarta, Bogor, Tangeran and Bekasi. The quantities have ranged from 9.7 – 29 tons (1994-1997) to 18.8 tons in 1999.

D. Municipal Wastewater

The more developed cities have a sewer and drainage system for municipal wastewater. Wastewater from homes run through lateral pipes that are connected to the main sewer, which leads to the trunk sewer. From the trunk sewer, wastewater is channeled into treatment facilities before final discharge. However, more often than not, the existing systems are in poor condition due to lack of maintenance, poor design and construction, as well as insufficient capacity.

Public storm water drainage systems are also used in some cities for municipal wastewater removal. Phuket Municipality, for example, has no public sewage disposal system.

In most towns and cities, municipal wastewater is generally discharged without treatment into rivers and lakes. Most households in the urban areas have flush toilets but the septic tank effluents are discharged into streets, ditches and natural water bodies. Only 40% to 50% of municipal wastewater is treated. Futhermore, environmental management and control of wastewater from both the public and private sanitation facilities is still lacking.

There is a wide variation of sewage systems among the ASEAN nations. There are countries that have high percentage of bucket latrines and communal septic tanks. In some countries, there is no system at all, particularly in the rural areas. In Vietnam, a central sewerage system is being built in Buon Thot province for the first time. On the other hand, 99 percent of the population of Singapore is serviced by a centralized treatment system.

On-site and off-site technologies for municipal wastewater treatment that are currently used in ASEAN countries in varying degrees are:


- Ventilated improved pit latrine (no water)
- Pour flush latrine/flush toilet with septic tank
- Soakway/soakage pits for septic tank effluent
- Communal/shared facilities for squatter areas

- Small-bore sewer
- Septage cartage and treatment in multi-stage lagoons
- Simplified condominial (low cost) local sewers
- Dry weather flow interceptors
- Conventional trunk sewers and pumping stations
- Treatment of collected/intercepted wastewater by low cost means including multi-stage lagoons/aquatic plants
- Basic primary treatment and disposal through marine outfalls with diffusers or directly onto the land

Malaysia has about 1.2 million septic tanks, which account for about 53 percent of all sewage treatment plants in Malaysia. Other systems used are Imhoff tanks (24 percent), oxidation plants (12 percent) and mechanical plants (11 percent). In 1993, the government awarded a 28-year national sewerage privatization concession to Indah Water Consortium to upgrade and manage 5,400 public sewage treatment plants, upkeep over 7,400 km of sewer pipes, and desludge septic tanks regularly.

In the more developed countries, flush toilets are common. These sewerage systems function well and are adequately operated and maintained. Thailand has extensive treatment facilities and has a sewage plan for 2011. This plan includes construction of a mix of stabilization ponds, aerated lagoons, activated sludge systems and oxidation ditches, with drying beds or dewatering units for sludge treatment. However, in the Philippines only 1 percent of 1500 cities/towns has domestic and industrial wastewater treatment facilities.

In the countries where municipal wastewater is treated like in Singapore, the sludge generated from the treatment plants is used for soil conditioning prior to land reclamation. In Malaysia, sludge is used to grow plants for municipal use. In some other countries (e.g., Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia), night soil is used by farmers as fertilizers, which could lead to problems of infestation from intestinal parasites, especially if nightsoil did not come from pre-treated wastewater.

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