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UK researchers promote circular economy during visit to Malaysia

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A researcher from Brunel University London has been working to strengthen collaborations with Malaysia and promote a circular economy approach to municipal solid waste management.

Dr Eleni Iacovidou, a researcher in Environmental Management at Brunel University London along with NERC Industrial Innovation (Rutherford) Research Fellow Dr Kok Siew Ng (Department of Engineering Science), recently spent two weeks in Malaysia meeting with key stakeholders from government, academia, industry and NGOs to gain a better understanding of the country’s waste management system and propose recommendations for addressing the multiple issues faced by the waste management sector.

During their trip the researchers met the Head of Department of Chemical Engineering at Universiti Putra Malaysia and visited the Sustainable Process Engineering Research Centre (SPERC), a newly established research centre at UPM pioneering the application of a systems approach in designing and integrating new industrial and waste valorisation technologies and processes.

“We are pleased to have identified a number of potential synergies among UPM, Oxford and Brunel and we are excited to be able to work more closely with the UK to drive the initiatives in promoting sustainability in resource utilisation,” said SPERC Director, Dr Wan Azlina.

 The researchers also had the opportunity to meet the VC of Penang Green Council, YB Phee Boon Poh (main picture), who has introduced various initiatives including the banning of polystyrene packaging and introducing a partial ban on single-use plastic bags, and has further plans to promote alternative options for municipal solid waste management.

At Malaysia’s National Solid Waste Management Department (JPSPN), the Deputy Director General (Technical) of JPSPN provided the team with invaluable insights into the various issues and challenges relevant to municipal solid waste management in Malaysia, such as the importing of contaminated plastic waste.

During a visit to the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Corporation (SWCorp) the researchers discussed illegal dumping of waste, landfill sites and imports of plastic waste with the Deputy CEO (Technical) and his team. SWCorp plan to promote initiatives aimed at increasing awareness of waste segregation at source, deposit return schemes and incentivising recycling.

The team made the most of their two weeks in the country, meeting with representatives from industry and visiting relevant sites, including:

  • Touring the food waste recycling facility at Petaling Jaya, which processes around 500kg of food waste per day by means of anaerobic digestion producing biogas and fertiliser.
  • Visiting Penang Hill, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area, which generates a significant amount of waste. Wastewater recovery facilities are being introduced at the site and there are plans to develop a more sustainable solid waste management system.
  • Taking part in a knowledge exchange session at the Higher Education Youth Association (HEYA), a Malaysian NGO providing training to graduates, which focused on exchanging ideas on environmental sustainability and ways of improving the quality of research and teaching in higher education. Dr Ng says, “The discussion was highly interactive and we have managed to generate several key takeaways. We are particularly pleased that after our conversations, HEYA is considering including sustainability in the education policies they are preparing for the Ministry of Higher Education”.

The researchers plan to collaborate further with many of the Malaysian agencies they met during the visit with a view to promoting circular economy and tackling the challenges relevant to solid waste management in Malaysia.

This article originally appeared on Oxford University’s website and is reproduced with permission.

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