Incinerator vs landfills: Which is cheaper?

There is so much negativity to incinerators that those opposing it forget they are then arguing for landfills.

Santha Manickam

Trash talk has been missing these few weeks.

But here’s the thing, rubbish stinks over time. So we will come around to sorting it in time. Probably after Raya.

In March, it was suggested the incinerator contract for Kuala Lumpur will be soon announced, but somehow after several editorials and admonishments, it has gone quiet.

My bet is, it is too close to elections.

A decision might be issued after the next general election, as to avoid it becoming a campaign issue.

It’s proof enough that the incinerator is a political issue rather than an economic decision, supported further if you study the heated debates online.

But let’s put politics aside and clearly work out what this proposal brings to the table.

As you see, any announcement will have a major impact on both Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.

It is important to consider things with balance because at the end the people, the rate payers, have to pay for it.


That’s the way things are going in Malaysia. We are already paying, but the burden for rate payers will increase as proven by the recent assessment rate spikes.

Government is reducing subsidies, and embracing the “pay as you use” model for the foreseeable future.

Kuala Lumpur and residents have been negotiating rates for the last year. The federal territory minister wants city residents to pay more, and the opposition politicians want less. Politics cannot forget that running a city costs money.

Residents have to choose well, as they are the ones to foot the bill. And it is a decision that the people have to live with for a long, long time.

Incinerators are more technologically demanding, which increases the fear of environmental fallout if badly managed. But just rejecting it as anti-environment is down to fear-mongering.

Those championing landfills, the corporations owning them and civil society groups, neglect to mention that there is plenty to worry about the older technology. It is ancient; in getting a place far away from homes and dumping garbage there; and when full filling it up.

The promotional material for landfills claim better processing of the garbage, guarantees leachate are disposed-off properly and utilising the energy from the gas formed at the landfills.

All require management and maintenance, exactly like incinerators.

But here is where the cost factor comes in, it costs to bring the trash to the far away landfills and those lots eventually must be abandoned. What becomes of the land?

There are many question marks when homes are built on former landfills as they may sink. As Kuala Lumpur grows under the Greater Kuala Lumpur umbrella, homes are going to be necessary and former landfill land will become very attractive.

Landfills require large spaces, incinerators don’t.

There is so much negativity to incinerators that those opposing it forget they are then arguing for landfills. They are commercially owned. It would be good to not overplay the altruism of the owners of the landfills and keep banging away at incinerators

There is a global debate about incinerator and landfills, and I feel it is unfair to paint one as completely destructive to the environment and the other to be completely complementary with recycling and therefore environmental friendly.

Waste will have a cost, any which way you look at it. Evidence currently backs the idea incinerators will be cheaper to residents over time, if run well.

What we need is all the facts, and an open mind about technology, maintenance and our financial burden in the years to come. Cheap is important after all the political speeches are done.