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UM Zero Waste Campaign

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With the growing number of universities, the population of each campus is significant and generate waste that causes adverse impact to the environment. It is estimated that waste from all academic institutions amounted to approximately 1,500 tonnes per day, which represents 5-10% of the total waste generated in Malaysia. Universities worldwide are embracing the move towards sustainability, including UM as the premier university in Malaysia which set an agenda for sustainable development goals since year 2009. University of Malaya Zero Waste Campaign (UM ZWC) as one of the university’s longest and most consistent sustainability living lab, it is developed to spearhead the development of a sustainable waste management model in the campus and ultimately achieve the status of a zero waste campus. UM ZWC has the following goal and objectives:   

Goal: To achieve a campus with zero waste to landfill with the development of integrated and sustainable waste management model


  1. To develop policy and innovation system to divert solid waste (non-hazardous) from disposal in landfill for resource and energy recovery.
  2. To streamline recycling activities and strategize efforts to increase recycling rate.
  3. To create awareness and inculcate best practice of waste separation at source among the campus communities.
  4. To form strategic partnership with various stakeholders to develop integrated waste management system.


Solid waste generation in Malaysia is increasingly rising, from 30,000 tonnes/day in 2013 to 38,000 tonnes/day to date. The official recycling rate announced by the Federal Government in 2013 was 10.5%. There are 176 landfills in the country, however, only eight are sanitary landfill while the rest are open dumpsite.  The 10th Malaysia Plan target recycling rate to be 22% by 2020. It is essential to achieve this and cut down food waste disposal to landfill, in order to reduce the negative environmental impacts, reducing greenhouse gases emission and to develop a sustainable solid waste management comparable with developed countries.

University of Malaya Zero Waste Campaign (UM ZWC) is one of the UM living labs under The Sustainability Science Research Cluster. It was set-up to spearhead development of a sustainable waste management model in UM and ultimately achieve the status of a zero waste campus. Besides environmental benefits, UM ZWC also provides research opportunities for teaching and learning, contributes to UM Low Carbon City Framework (LCCF) target and serves as a platform to improve students’ soft skill and entrepreneur skill. Furthermore, UM ZWC has assisted several local communities to develop sustainable waste management system including communal composting project through various collaboration and partnership.

UM ZWC aims to increase the current recycling capacity to more than 30 tonnes/month (recycling rate: 20%) by 2020. The first phase of the campaign aims to increase capacity of organic waste composting, formalization of recycling collection as well as robust waste tracking and data collection mechanism. In the next 5-10 years, UM ZWC will play a vital role to formalize collection of recyclable materials in UM and further increase the organic waste recycling, while kitchen waste will be treated anaerobically with AD and aerobically with in-vessel composting. Collaborations with local and foreign organizations, government agency and private entities will be intensified to introduce environmental-friendly waste sorting, recovery and treatment technologies. Multi-stakeholders participation, support from top management and industrial collaboration are key factors that drive the development of sustainable waste management model in the campus. UM ZWC serves as an institutional sustainable and integrated waste management model and contributes to the national recycling target while bringing benefits to the Mother Earth and society at large.


UM ZWC has contributed significantly in environmental protection with the diversion of almost 700 ton of different wastes from disposal to landfill (comprising of 275 ton of food waste, 55 ton of green waste, 75 ton of used clothes, 162 ton of wood waste and 122 ton of materials recyclable) with its recycling and on site treatment in UM since year 2011. The waste streams collected separately are food waste and green waste for in-house composting and anaerobic digestion, used clothes for reuse and recycling, wood waste for energy recovery for a local independent power plant, materials recyclables for re-processing as secondary materials and e-waste for recycling. From analysis using LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) approach, a total of 2,505 ton of CO2-eq. emission has been avoided by the integrated projects under UM ZWC.

In term of social benefits, UM ZWC has provided training to more than 10,000 individuals from various local and international organizations since inception in year 2011. Every year, there are about 60-70 delegates of visit to UM ZWC center with about 10-50 person per delegate. These visitors come to UM ZWC for learning of knowledge in biological treatment such as composting and anaerobic digestion, separate collection and integrated waste management in a campus level.

In the context of economic dimension, with the monthly reduction of about 6-7 pulls of open top bin hauled to landfill, a total of RM151,274 of waste disposal cost has been saved since inception. Besides, a total of RM15,000 amount of proceeds from selling of used clothes from UM campus were donated to several charity bodies.

Last Update: Dec 30, 2019