As Southeast Asia (SEA) continues to urbanise, waste generation in cities is increasing rapidly. While most SEA countries have policies and regulations in place to improve waste management and sustainability practices, efforts and enforcement of waste management are fragmented among institutions and concerned stakeholders. The challenge is further complicated by the high upfront cost of setting waste management infrastructure. Various cities across SEA are stepping up efforts to reduce waste volume through recycling and better management practices. Waste-to-energy (WtE) is one such initiative that is being adopted to convert non-recyclable waste into usable forms of energy. Southeast Asia Infrastructure takes a look at some of the notable developments in WtE in the region…


Scientists at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, have discovered a method to produce biocement from waste, making the alternative to traditional cement greener and more sustainable. Biocement is a renewable cement. The NTU scientists have created biocement from two common waste materials, industrial carbide sludge and urea. The research team have shown that their biocement could potentially become a sustainable and cost-effective method for soil improvement. It will help strengthen the ground for use in construction or excavation, control beach erosion and reduce dust or wind erosion in the desert, among others. This initiative supports the NTU 2025 strategic plan, which aims to address mitigating human impact on the environment through advancements in research and sustainability development.

In another recent development, China and Singapore have strengthened bilateral relations to promote the green economy and enhance cooperation and exchange in the digital economy. The two countries have signed two memorandums of understanding (MoUs) on green development. These will focus on areas such as waste management, renewable energy, green buildings, green finance, etc.

The Philippines

According to the City Environment and Natural Resources Office, Davao city in the Philippines generates around 900 tonnes of garbage per day. As a response to the city’s waste problem, the government of Davao city plans to construct a PhP 2.5 billion WtE facility on a 10 hectare property in Biao Escuela in Tugbok district. At present, all the waste generated is dumped in a landfill. After the WtE facility is operational, the landfill will be closed and converted into a segregation area for the WtE facility. The local government sees the WtE incinerator as a long-term solution to its solid waste problem. In another pioneering move, the AC Energy Corporation (ACEN) has piloted the circularity approach in its 120 MW solar plant in Alaminos, Laguna, in the Philippines. It is a construction site, diverting from landfills a total of 32,540 kg of plastic collected from the solar panel packaging materials, which are upcycled into eco-bricks and utilised in building solar plant facilities. This pilot plastic waste conversion project will allow ACEN to close the loop and reduce the environmental impact at construction sites. With the success of this first run, the company hopes to replicate this programme at other project sites. ACEN is also exploring extending this circular approach within its project locations by developing eco-hub recycling facilities through partnerships with the local community, the segregation of garbage, and setting up of collection points in grocery stores, markets and shops where plastic products are usually found. This project will soon be implemented in Ilocos Norte in partnership with the provincial government.

Vietnam The International Finance Corporation has committed $30 million to the construction of a WtE plant in the northern province of Bac Ninh as part of its support to Vietnam to help the country reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. With about 1.4 million people and 16 industrial parks, Bac Ninh generates over 1,000 tonnes of solid waste every day. The financing package will allow T&J Green Energy Company Limited to develop a modern WtE plant in Thuan Thanh district. The plant is expected to begin operations in 2024 and will incinerate 500 tonnes of industrial solid waste every day. Waste incineration at the plant is expected to generate 91,872 MW hours of clean energy a year, preventing about 600,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over 15 years. The power generated will be sold to the Vietnam Electricity Corporation under a 20-year feed-in-tariff power purchase scheme.

In another recent development, the US Agency for International Development and the Korea International Co-operation Agency (KOICA) signed their first MoU in Vietnam on cooperation to reduce pollution, mitigate climate change in the Mekong Delta, and accelerate the transition to clean energy. According to the MoU, the two agencies will pursue shared development goals including improving solid waste management and reducing plastic and other types of pollution. KOICA’s particular attention in Vietnam is on WtE to reduce marine plastic pollution, and conserve forests.

Thailand The Metropolitan Energy Authority, Thailand, is co-investing with a private firm, Newsky Energy Thailand, for the construction of two new WtE power plants in Bangkok. This will promote the expansion of alternative energy in the metropolitan area and help protect the environment. Each of these will have a generating capacity of 35 MW of electricity using 1,000 tonnes of waste as fuel each day. The two power plants will be introduced along with a smart grid system, which will allow communities in service areas to receive power entirely from these plants. The plants are expected to be commissioned by 2024. In another initiative by the Thailand government, the second phase of the WtE scheme of Thailand has started. This will help the country to have an additional electricity generation capacity of 600 MW. Of the 600 MW, 400 MW will be produced from community waste and 200 MW from industrial waste. An auction for WtE projects, 200 MW of community waste and 100 MW of industrial waste will be first held in 2022. Authorities expect the power plants under this auction to be operational by 2024. An auction for the remaining 300 MW is scheduled to be held in 2023. Commercial operations of power plants under the second auction are scheduled for 2025.

Future outlook

As the world urbanises rapidly, the amount of waste being generated is growing faster than the rate of urbanisation. WtE provides a means to manage waste generation in SEA. Despite some issues related to the development of the WtE sector such as public perception, all stakeholder involvement, public-private partnerships, funding, and climate factors, some SEA countries have taken reasonably successful steps towards the adoption of WtE solutions, making other countries follow suit.