Integrated and Sustainable Waste Management Initiatives – The UM Zero Waste Campaign (UM ZWC)

Under the 17 goals of the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), Goal 12 specifically emphasizes on sustainable consumption and production patterns. It aims by 2030 to halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains and substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse. Sustainable consumption and production  aims at “doing more and better with less,” increasing net welfare gains from economic activities by reducing resource use, degradation and pollution along the whole lifecycle, while increasing quality of life. It involves different stakeholders, including business, consumers, policy makers, researchers, scientists, retailers, media, and development cooperation agencies, among others.

In the University of Malaya, the Sustainability Science Research Cluster (SuSci) is one of the entity that play a catalytic role to promote research and initiatives in a holistic and comprehensive perspective to resolve the problem that is relevant to global sustainability, social and human life system. SuSci also have its origin in the concept of development as recommended by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) in 1987 and aims to achieve status society and sustainable and balanced life between physical development and maintenance environment. Amongst the many research programs under Susci, the Living Lab projects, which promotes translational and problem solving especially in promoting UM eco campus initiatives and environmental conservation and reducing campus environmental impact.

The University of Malaya Zero Waste Campaign (UM ZWC) is one of the university’s longest and most consistent endeavors. It is also unique due to the bottom-up and top-down synergy that characterizes its development. It has the following objectives such as to develop policy and innovation systems to divert organic waste (from disposal in landfill) for nutrient (composting) and energy recovery (anaerobic digestion), to streamline recycling activities and strategize efforts to increase recycling rates, to create awareness and inculcate best practices of waste separation at source among campus communities, serve as a long term campaign to achieve an integrated waste management model and ultimately a zero waste campus, initiate projects, research projects and schemes such as the Green Bag Scheme, an in-house composting centre, an anaerobic digestion project, recycling collection system for e-waste, used textiles and wood waste, composting emission study and others.

It was set-up to spearhead the development of a more sustainable waste management model in the UM campus and ultimately achieve the status of a zero waste campus. This campaign is a daily operation which is seven days a week without interruption that requires observation and a strong commitment to ensuring that all the waste on campus is managed in an orderly manner and in accordance with the establishment of the procedures. This field also requires cooperation from the café operators around UM due to estimated average of 40% of food waste from the overall composition of waste in UM. Hence, organic and inorganic waste are managed by UM ZWC and the university’s assets and service department, JPPHB, reducing monthly almost 15- 20 tons  of waste to landfill, while reducing cost and reducing environmental impacts through reduction in carbon emissions and footprint and leachate contamination avoidance. Hence UM ZWC have promoted the concept of sustainable consumption and production by converting food and green waste into valuable resources such as compost and biogas. Other endeavor include educational campaign and workshops about waste management, segregation at source and recycling. On a more long term level, ZWC has drawn up a roadmap for the UM Development Unit to achieve 15% landfill diversion by year 2020 (phase 1), 30% by year 2030 (phase 2) and 60% by year 2040 (phase 3) while phase 1 have been achieved by UM ZWC which is 15% landfill diversion by year 2020. The integrated solid waste management system set up through the UM ZWC Living Lab projects has strengthen the green growth agenda toward sustainable development and environmental conservation in UM campus by empowering the campus community through a systematic, concerted, and action oriented problem solving translational research initiative.


Associate Professor Dr Sumiani Yusoff


Sustainability Science Research Cluster

University of Malaya