Waste to Energy in Southeast Asia: Lessons from China

Facing increases in population, electricity demand and waste output, Southeast Asia can look to China’s waste to energy experiences when developing their own technologies and infrastructure.

The region, which includes such nations as Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, is experiencing a swift urbanization whose aggregate population will likely expand to 373 million people by 2030. Both China and Southeast Asian nations are emerging economies with similarities, such as high production of food waste, sewer waste and recyclables, all of which have a low caloric burning value.

While Japan and Europe have the most advanced waste to energy systems, China had the largest installed plant global capacity for waste to energy by the end of 2017, and its success in the field, as well as similarities to Southeast Asia, can inform the region as it increases in both the need for electricity production and waste reduction.

Specifically, there are three points for Southeast Asia to consider:

First, there has been debate in both China and Southeast Asia over the community health and environmental impact of waste to energy industrial technologies, such as traditional incineration, as well as their suitability to meet energy needs.

Second, Southeast Asia can learn from China’s experience of expanding waste to energy technologies beyond that of traditional incineration.

Third, China has learned that waste incineration is only a short-term solution to the waste dilemma. A more efficient waste-sorting system can help emerging economies utilize the most applicable waste to energy technologies. A lack of effective sorting has caused the nation’s current undesirable waste mix.

Written by Nicole Foulke