No progress with MCL to use plastic waste as an alternative energy to coal

February 18, 2020

HURFOM: Mawlamyine Cement Limited (MCL) operates a coal-fired cement factory in Pyar Taung Region, Kyaikmayaw Township, Mon State.  In August, 2019, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation for Mon State informed the factory to use plastic waste as an alternative energy source to coal, but there has been no reply , according to the Minister Dr Min Kyi Win.

The National Environmental Conservation and Climate Change Central Committee (NECCCC) held its 8th central meeting in August, 2019 where it was decided particular government departments would negotiate with companies who used coal-fired power to switch to energy derived from plastic waste.

According to the meeting decision, each State and Division government who has coal-fire cement factories have to [hold] discussions with the companies. If the companies accept the decision, coal will be replaced with plastic waste [as the fuel source]. We already informed MCL but they haven’t replied yet,” said the Minister.

The Minister continued, there is a need for technology and investment to start using plastic waste as a source of energy and it is difficult to collect sufficient amounts of plastic, because cement factories consume a great deal of power. He added the plan to use plastic waste as an alternative energy source to coal is under negotiation.

MCL cement factory was designed for a coal-fire power system and requires a new system to use plastic waste. This conversion would be time-consuming, according to U Min Thein Tun, the Deputy Director of Mon State Environment Conservation Department.

A 100% conversion from burning coal to using plastic waste will require time.  “For instance, 2 or 4 % in the first year of operation.  A system of percentage per year is the only appropriate way. But what I’m worrying about is that we need limestone and chemicals to control carbon dioxide emitted from coal and coal-fired cement factories already have a system in place. If we burn plastic waste, we don’t know what is emitted. We need experts to control what is emitted from burning plastic waste. It is not possible to start a new system immediately,” said U Min Thein Tun.

In addition, to use plastic waste as a source of energy, there must be an organization who collects plastic waste (across Mon State) and there must be technology to control the toxins and emissions from plastic waste, noted U Kyi Maung Win, an official of MCL.

Thailand uses plastic waste (as a source of energy). But they’re struggling to control the bad smell. It’s really smelly. It’s smellier than coal. In other countries, the government supports those who use waste as a source of energy. In our country, it’s very difficult to control the bad smell along the transportation route of the waste. The government must support everything [to start using plastic waste as a source of energy]. In other countries, the government supports everything,” said U Kyi Maung Win.

Local people have repeatedly protested against MCL, demanding they stop using coal-fired power and convert to alternative energy sources that are less environmentally damaging.  The Mon State Parliament has also urged the company to replace coal with alternative energy sources. MCL cement factory has invested 400 million US dollars in their operation and produces 5,000 tons of cement per day.

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