Much has changed from the time International Business Review first featured KDEB Waste Management (KDEBWM) Managing Director Dato’ Ramli Mohd Tahir on the cover of our 131st edition in 2019. In the three plus years since then, KDEBWM has further cemented its place as Selangor’s leading waste management company, all the while meeting demands for greater sustainability and navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic. But one thing has not changed, and that is Dato’ Ramli’s passion for what he does. In fact, if anything, it has only grown stronger than ever, which is apparent as he tells International Business Review of KDEBWM’s plans moving forward in 2023 and beyond.
“We want to ensure that Selangor is as clean as possible so that people can stay and live happily and healthily in the State. Therefore, we have to ensure that our KPIs are met. Because, at the end of the day, taxpayers expect the government of the day to provide effective services in waste management, as well as electricity, water, infrastructure and housing.”
– Dato’ Ramli Mohd Tahir,
Managing Director of KDEB Waste Management
Being the head of the foremost waste management company in Malaysia’s most populated and industrialised State, Dato’ Ramli is constantly on the move. As he revealed when we met him at KDEBWM’s head office in Menara Bank Rakyat at Shah Alam, he had a meeting with representatives from the Federal government the next day. And then, two days afterwards, he would be jetting off to Austria as part of a delegation organised by the Austrian Ambassador to Malaysia.
This flurry of activity is part of the aim to transform KDEBWM into the premier waste management company providing the A to Z of solutions, not just in Selangor or even Malaysia but also regionally and internationally. An ambitious task perhaps but not entirely impossible, especially given how much KDEBWM has achieved in a short span of time.
After all, this is the company that secured its first contract to provide domestic waste collection and public cleansing services to the Klang Municipal Council (MPK) in 2016. And then, by 2020, it had managed to secure concessions to provide such services to all
12 municipalities in Selangor. At the same time, KDEBWM has also introduced smart technologies, innovations and digitalisation to the waste management process in Selangor. For instance, it has invested in installing GPS tracking systems on all its vehicular assets which enables them to be tracked via its Centralised Command Centre (CCC) in the KDEBWM head office. It has created the iClean Selangor app, which allows the public to make real-time reports of uncollected rubbish and illegal dumping so that they will be cleared in time.
Focus on Sustainability
After achieving so much in such a short space of time, what’s next for KDEBWM? According to Dato’ Ramli, “We are subscribing to environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDG) because we want to be a company that offers the A to Z of waste management, which encompasses not only waste collection but also proper treatment and disposal.”
He illustrated the need to do so by bringing up the issue of landfills, which is normally where waste is disposed. “When you dump waste in landfills, not only can the land not be used for other purposes, sometimes the things that are dumped there can damage the environment. For instance, plastic takes hundreds of years to decompose, and we use around 1 billion plastic bags a year in this country. 1 billion with a population of just 33 million! What a crime we are doing to the soil and the land!” he exclaimed.
As such, KDEBWM has been embarking on reducing the amount of waste disposed at landfills. Dato’ Ramli explained, for instance, that KDEBWM operators would separate
plastic waste and send them to the company’s Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) so that
they can be cleaned and then sold to a buyer.
“We are also in talks to supply raw plastic to PETRONAS Chemicals Group, which is a subsidiary of PETRONAS, for their biodiesel plant in Pengerang, Johor.
As Selangor is the most populous State in Malaysia and therefore produces the most plastic waste, it is only natural that KDEBWM becomes their supplier. Hopefully, we will reach an agreement on this towards the end of the first quarter of 2023,” Dato’ Ramli revealed.
Furthermore, KDEBWM has also been working to help the residents of Selangor dispose of their waste in a more environmentally-friendly manner, such as sponsoring biodegradable plastic bags which will decompose at a faster rate than normal plastic.
KDEBWM’s commitment to the three Rs of sustainable waste management – “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” is further reflected in its plans to open up five more MRFs in Selangor in 2023. Of course, sustainable waste management is a two-way street, wherein it is not the sole responsibility of the waste management company. In other words, the people have to be in line with such efforts.
As Dato’ Ramli explained, “We have to educate people to reduce their waste and to reuse and recycle more. If you go to Europe, you will see that they have a very high rate of recycling. In Malaysia, however, the rate is around 26 to 30 percent according to data from the Federal government. Therefore, what we need to do is to provide more recycling centres and to let people know that there is a facility where they can send their recyclable waste.”
Aside from being more environmentally conscious, KDEBWM also strives to be a socially-responsible organisation through eliminating all forms of discrimination, particularly gender discrimination in the organisation. This, Dato’ Ramli was proud to highlight, can be seen in the fact that out of the eight departments in KDEBWM, four are headed by women – namely PR, Legal, Human Resources and Finance.
At the same time, KDEBWM has also been actively involved in giving back to the community. One example of which is how a team from KDEBWM were involved in relief efforts when certain parts of Selangor were affected by floods from December 2021 to January 2022.
Good corporate governance is also another key issue for KDEBWM. According to Dato’ Ramli, this is manifested in the company practising accountability and transparency through holding regular townhalls and meetings with staff. In addition, the company has also pledged that it is free from corruption through an agreement signed with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in late 2022.
Powering Selangor through Waste
One way in which KDEBWM aims to revolutionise the waste management sector in Selangor is by venturing into converting waste to energy through setting up a waste-to-energy (WTE) plant in the State.
Detailing the process, Dato’ Ramli revealed, “For the past two years, we have been conducting an RFP (request for proposal) exercise which attracted 36 companies from all over the world, and out of which we have shortlisted five. We have also received the go-ahead from the State government to set up the plant in Rawang
at the northern part of Selangor.”
The WTE plant, Dato’ Ramli further highlighted, is the first phase of the Selangor Green Energy Ecopark Project (SGEEP). The SGEEP will be built on 245 acres of land and has the capacity to process 2,400 tonnes of waste per day.
As for phase two, this will involve building a facility to manage and dispose of hazardous waste from factories all across Selangor. “Having a centralised facility to manage and process such waste will be easier and more conducive to the environment, rather than having them dispersed in different areas,” he noted.
In total, 132 MW of electricity is expected to be produced from processing domestic and hazardous (or scheduled) waste at the SGEEP. Not only that, the facility – which is valued at around RM4.5 billion will also help provide at least 1,800 jobs during the construction process and long-term employment of around 1,000 jobs.
The SGEEP is also part and parcel of KDEBWM’s initiative to contribute to the development of Selangor as a State-owned entity (SOE). In fact, waste management is one of the focus areas of the First Selangor Plan (RS-1), which was introduced by Menteri Besar YAB Dato’ Sri Amirudin Shari in July 2022.
Going Beyond Selangor…
Over the years, under Dato’ Ramli’s leadership, KDEBWM’s success has also been reflected
in the various accolades it has received, such as the International Business Review ASEAN
Awards, the Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific Awards, and the BrandLaureate Awards.
On a personal note, Dato’ Ramli’s own achievements were recently recognised by HRH the Sultan of Selangor who bestowed on him the Darjah Kebesaran Dato’ Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah (D.S.I.S). This carries the title of Dato’ and was presented to him on the occasion of the Sultan’s 77th birthday in December 2022.
While no doubt proud that KDEBWM has been so recognised, Dato’ Ramli also pointed out that receiving such awards and accolades is not part and parcel of the company’s KPIs. In other words, the KDEBWM team do not do what they do with the intention of receiving recognition, but because it is their duty and responsibility to provide the best waste management service. Everything else is just extra icing on the cake.
Having cemented the position as Selangor’s leading waste management company, the next step for KDEBWM is to go beyond Selangor. For Dato’ Ramli, expansion is necessary because, as he puts it, “We cannot be satisfied with just being the champion in our own local territory. If we want to gauge how good we are, we need to go to another area and test ourselves there.”
That is why he was excited to reveal that he would be having a meeting with representatives from the Federal Ministry of Local Government Development (KPKT) the day after our interview. The purpose of this meeting, he explained, is to explore the possibilities of KDEBWM becoming the fourth national waste concessionaire under the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act 2007 or Act 672.
Should KDEBWM be successful in this bid, it will enable the company to operate outside of Selangor and also tap into additional funds provided by the Federal government. And this, Dato’ Ramli explained, will allow KDEBWM to further invest in more equipment and upgrading their facilities, with the aim of providing better service to the public.
… And Malaysia
For Dato’ Ramli and the team at KDEBWM, it is not enough to move out to the rest
of Malaysia. He believes that in order for KDEBWM to truly position itself as a leader
in waste management, it has to go outside its comfort zone. As he so succinctly puts it, “Business these days is borderless. And we want to test ourselves in the international market, because we have the expertise, we have the experience, and we have the people and spirit to succeed in the wider world.” And that is why he was proud to reveal that KDEBWM has been working to secure deals overseas. For instance, the company
has submitted a tender to provide waste management services in Bahrain, and –
as at time of writing – the final evaluation would be taking place in the near future.
Not only would winning the Bahrain concession be a feather in KDEBWM’s cap, Dato’ Ramli noted that it would also serve as a launching pad for the company to venture to other parts of the Middle East including Dubai, Oman and Qatar. Aside from Bahrain, KDEBWM is also looking to expand its services to Lahore in Pakistan and, closer to home, the new Indonesian capital Nusantara in Kalimantan.
Moving forward, Dato’ Ramli Mohd Tahir highlighted the company’s goal of venturing into the management and disposal of medical waste, to add on to its present services of domestic, bulk and industrial waste collection and management as well as public cleansing. Furthermore, he hopes for KDEBWM to play a leading role in educating the public and raising awareness about the importance of being more responsible in managing their waste and to change their attitude to waste. Because as he has said many times, “Waste is not dirty! Waste is money!”