Industrial & Hazardous Waste in Asia
Overview of the Potential Market

By Michel Buron
September 2002

The Author is the founder and managing partner of BizAsia Network, a firm dedicated to facilitate business, export and investment in Asia and specialised in environmental technologies and green energy Industrial & Hazardous Waste in Asia. → See also:



As evidenced by newspaper reports and the activities by government and industrial sector, environmental awareness has greatly increased in recent years. The multi-national and larger local companies have established rigorous environmental policies, hired specialized environmental managers and have established basic segregation and pre-treatment capabilities. These practices are the result of directives from the stockholder, demanding these institutes to practice a good neighbor approach. In addition, these multi- national companies demand that their operating facilities comply with the latest USEPA/EC standards.

Development of ISO 14000 standards for Environmental Management Systems (EMS) will have a substantial worldwide impact in compliance for the sake of competitive advantage at first ,and ultimately as a necessity to maintain export markets. General and specialized environmental education will increase both corporate awareness and capability, as well as increasing public demand for environmentally sound practices.

Waste generators

Potential customers are easy to find and targetable by location, business type, potential volume and waste produced. It can be regrouped in three categories:

  1. Industrial sludge/waste: mainly characterised by mono-stream waste (capacity below 30 TPD)
    • Multi-national companies which include petro-chemical plants, pharmaceutical plants, car manufacturers
    • Organic chemical industry: solvent and product recovery by distillation
    • Major private and state companies oil and utility producers (electricity)
    • Sewage sludge probuced by large sewage treatment plant

  2. Medical waste:
    • Medical waste and quarantine waste (hospitals, airports, ports)

  3. Hazardous waste: typically multi waste streams with capacity from 30 to 100 TPD
    • Industrial Estates, which produce various sludges resulting from wastewater treatment facilities
    • Waste Management companies (Onyx, Sita, Cleanaway, Collex, etc.)

Target countries

Countries with advanced and reinforced environmental laws are most likely to invest in proper solutions to manage their hazardous waste.
Taiwan, Australia, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea and Malaysia are leading the trend followed by China and Thailand.

Generally speaking, the disposal of hazardous waste by a combustion technology is economically justified if the cost of other solutions available is higher than 125 US$/ton.

Market Approach

Since the market place is well defined, opportunities will be geographically concentrated (petrochemical complex, large industrial clusters). We recommend maufacturers to adopt a direct approach to the multi-nationals and plants located in industrial estates. This strategy should rely on the development of a strong market intelligence network, one of the key towards success.


For the respect of our environment, the basic 3R's rule (reduce, reuse, recycle) should prevail as a prevention instead of curing. Today treatment of hazardous waste includes biological treatment, chemical oxidation and reduction, neutralisation, stabilisation, incineration and energy recovery prior to landfill.

The role that combustion plays in hazardous waste management has changed dramatically over the past two decades. The recognition that land disposal of hazardous waste could present long-term pollution problems and the development of low emission incinerators prompted combustion to become the preferred method of waste management.

The increased use of incinerators to dispose of hazardous waste raised concerns about the proper role of combustion in waste management, as well as the safety of combustion. If conducted properly, the thermal processing of waste has several striking advantages.

First, it is a process that substantially and permanently reduces the toxicity and volume of virtually all organic-bearing waste streams, by destroying organic compounds.

Secondly, combustion devices can accommodate most types of waste, including liquids, solids, and sludge. Further, since combustion reduces a waste's toxicity and volume, residues from combustion are generally more amenable to land disposal than the original waste streams.

Despite these technical attributes, controversy surrounds the use of combustion since hazardous wastes burned in combustion units often contain toxic organic chemicals, heavy metals, and chlorine, trace amounts of which may be released into the atmosphere in the form of emissions.

To address these concerns and better ensure safe combustion of hazardous waste, various governments have focused on key issues involving the role of combustion and alternative technologies, emission and control standards, risk assessments, permitting priorities, enforcement and compliance assistance, and public involvement in the permitting process. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the EEC are the most advanced and comprehensive directives available today.

Thermal processing of hazardous waste

It is understood by thermal processing the combustion of waste in an enclosed area. Incinerators are used primarily for the destruction of waste with possible energy and material recovery; boilers and industrial furnaces burn waste not only for destruction but with main purpose the recovery of energy and material.

Typical hazardous waste incinerators include rotary kilns, cement kilns, liquid injectors, controlled air furnace and fluidised bed.

Rotary kilns were introduced about 30 years ago and developed according to the "all burn" principle. It consists of a rotating drum, supported by two massive rings carried in cradles at an angle of 2 degrees to the horizontal and rotating slowly (0.2 to 0.5 rpm).

Usually designed for capacities exceeding 2T/h, they can accept large lumps of solid waste, drums and containers, pasty, liquid and gaseous waste, which is fed at the front wall of the kiln via a chute.

Rotary kilns usually operate in the primary chamber at temperatures above 1000C in order to achieve an acceptable burn out of the waste (poor contact air/waste). Complete burn out of the gases is achieved in the second combustion chamber at a temperature above 850C (up to 1200C) and with a residence time of at least 2 second. High energy and maintenance (seals, refractory) costs, fused slag formation unfit for direct landfill, difficult operation and high investment cost make this technology often only interesting for very large plants (>5 TPH) and when the variety of waste is wide (typically for waste management companies).

Cement Kilns facilities burning hazardous waste are normally equipped with either an electrostatic precipitator (ESP) or fabric filter (FF) to control emissions of particulate matter (PM). Typical wastes burned in kilns include paint, ink, spent halogenated and non-halogenated, still bottoms from solvent recovery operations, petroleum industry wastes, and waste oils.

Kilns burning hazardous wastes (especially with halogenated wastes) emit more particles than kilns burning normal, providing a pathway for metals to escape the incinerator in a form that is particularly dangerous to humans (attached to the outside of the fine particles). The fly ash from kilns burning hazardous wastes is loaded with heavy metals and due to their high alkalinity (high pH) makes them more leaching than ash from normal hazardous waste incinerator. PICs are also created in lower-temperature parts of the kiln (APCD and stack) and escape to the atmosphere without treatment. Another source of problems may be chemical releases resulting from transportation often operated dangerously, in violation of applicable laws.

Fluidised bed

It is accepted that fluidized bed is the best available technology up to date for combustion. Its high contact surface waste/air, high heat transfer, turbulence and mixing properties confer to this type of reactor the best combustion efficiency. However in order to take full advantage of a fluidized bed, waste should be fed preferably in small lumps (eventually a pre-treatment is required). Waste containing high salts content may cause formation of eutectics and risks of de-fluidization of the bed. These make the fluidized bed more suitable for "selected" waste streams (on-site treatment plant for mono- streams) at the opposite of "all burn" concept that was preferred in the past decades.


Illegal waste dumping by unscrupulous licensed contractors, liability of the waste generator and growing importance of a green image, etc. push the industry to rethink its waste disposal strategy. One solution for addressing waste management issues would be for each factory to have its own facility and be able to treat its own hazardous waste. For smaller industries, it would be however too expensive. The call for centralised treatment plants, taking advantage of the economy of scale by collecting wastes from throughout a region, is in full development and supported by both government and private sector. In conjunction with on-site treatment and waste minimazation programs, a centralised treatment plant offers industry an overall low cost means of meeting its environmental responsibilities.

No doubt that the market size will grow quickly in the region and become the largest potential for players who will have positioned themselves early on the map.


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