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Waste Sector Roundtable Series: Session 2: Smart Cities and Technological Solutions

Updated: May 22, 2023

Dr Kala Nesaretnam, co-founder of CGM in her opening remarks stated that in the first roundtable the focus was on how corporates and consumers’ managed their waste. In this second session, the panellists and moderator discussed solutions to resolving waste issues in the community, accompanied by the idea of smart cities. Creating safe and resilient sustainable cities is among the primary focus of the green agenda. For context, there were already innovative initiatives that are implemented in cities across the globe which includes:

  1. Sponge cities

● Where concrete neighbourhoods are interlaced with green spaces that can naturally detain and filter water.

● Can be seen in Singapore’s garden city

2. Vertical forests

● In Milan, Italy, forest cover can be seen on vertical towers, with 800 trees, 4,500 shrubs and 15,000 plants. This vertical ‘forest’ would cover an area the size of 3 and a half football fields had it been planted on a flat ground.

3. The 20-minute neighbourhood

● A concept where everything needed for a comfortable living is within 20-minutes from home

● This includes shops, business services, education institutions, healthcare and leisure facilities

● In Paris, the mayor has a future metropolis in planning where no one needs to travel further than 15 minutes on foot or bike to work, shop and government agencies

4. Miniature urban forests

● Inspired by protected areas around Japanese temples, shrines and cemeteries, where a variety of native vegetation coexist to provide resilient and diverse ecosystems.

● This ecosystem is able to contribute to combating the effects of climate change

5. The green train track

● Regeneration projects are among the forefront of sustainable cities initiatives

● In Bangkok, an old elevated railway line has turned into a city park

● Urban regeneration can change the way people view public spaces

6. Smarter commuting

● In Israel, a smart application is being utilised where an algorithm is used to calculate the most efficient journey for users based on their location and destination.

● This system can save up to $25 million dollars a year.

Dr Renard Siew, in his opening remarks, noted that as our global population continues to grow, developing countries like Malaysia are continuously facing numerous challenges, such as managing waste in a sustainable manner. In 2005, Malaysia generated up to 19,000 tonnes of waste per day, with a recycling rate of only 5%. 13 years later in 2018, waste generated grew to 30,000 tonnes per day, with a small increase in recycling rate of 17%. This is an alarming issue considering the fact that we are running out of space for landfills, along with the rising cost of waste disposal. With that said, we must rethink our approach to convert this crisis into an opportunity.

Mr Bk Sinha of MGBC talked about how consumers’ behavioural change can lead the way. The cornerstone for achieving a circular economy is the separation at source by consumers. For example:

  • Food waste can be composted or channelled into biogas - a technology which is more than a 100 years old

  • Recyclable solid waste can be passed to companies like ESECO that buys dry waste to be sent into the recycling streams

The public and societal actions can encourage the government and ease their tasks of the direction to take. But this must happen with organic growth and the number must be sizable. By changing our behaviour, it can cause a seismic knock-on-knock effect on the entire waste stream to make it more sustainable.

A solution that an everyday consumer can take on is to make use of their residence association. It only takes one person from one household to properly separate their organic waste from dry waste, measures these 2 streams of waste, aggregates the statistics obtained with their community, and plan a project around it. These types of efforts by the people will progress societal efforts towards a zero-waste society.

Ms Goh Seok Mei, of United Cities shared her experience of waste management in Barcelona, Spain where communities segregate their waste into 5 different types, and are required to dispose of their waste into 5 different bins which are placed 50-100 metres outside their residences. Education has to be provided to consumers in order to facilitate this change. In the different waste bins that contain different types of waste, a sensor is fixed to detect when the waste bins are collected. The trucks will only be deployed when a waste bin is full, creating a smarter and more efficient manner of waste collecting. With that said, this technology and waste collecting system should be adopted in Malaysia moving forward.

She also spoke about cold chain logistics for fresh produce and the problem of fresh produce becoming rotten during transportation to distribution centres. The National University of Singapore created an IOT system that places a network of sensors to capture the temperature in fresh produce warehouses. Using data analytics and machine learning these sensors adjust the temperature throughout the building. Robots are also used to find inaccurate temperature data to readjust temp automatically, especially for areas near entrance and exit doors.

Ms Christine Rodwell, founder of Impulsum talked about how a public-private corporation is an effective way to handle waste. Technological challenges are no longer a major barrier to our current waste issues, instead, it is about having the right ecosystem and stakeholders that includes civil society, the private sector and government authorities. An exemplary model can be seen with the public-private partnership between Veolia, Swiss Re, the 100 Resilient Cities Foundation and the local government, launched by the Rockefeller Foundation 6 years ago in the city of New Orleans. This similar model that focuses on waste management and circular economy has been adopted by over 20 other cities around the world that are working to become smarter, more inclusive and more resilient.

The model puts the needs of the cities first. It is designed with a new approach that starts with a risk and opportunities analysis of the cities in terms of social and environmental issues. This approach allows the designing of a detailed resilience action plan for the city. The aforementioned project in New Orleans developed a detailed resilience plan that looked at each infrastructure in detail, understanding how to make it more robust, and introducing tools to enable the city to follow up with actions that are taken and solutions that are implemented. On that note, the first step that can be taken in Malaysia as we move forward is for private sectors to step in, as a coalition, to develop innovative solutions for local cities.

Ts. Shamsul Bahar, the CEO of MGTC said businesses should understand sustainable product designing in the concept of a circular economy that pays attention to the products’ end of life to minimise waste that end up in landfill. For instance, in Scandinavian countries, old products such as cars get refurbished to turn into reconditioned cars that get sold to other countries. He also mentioned that The Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act 2007 (Act 672) is enacted for 7 states only. To have a systematic change, it needs to be enacted in other states.

In her final remarks Dr Kala said CGM is actively promoting many initiatives to address climate change and invites both companies and individuals to join.

Click for the recording


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