PALM oil waste in Malaysia represents a significant environmental and management challenge, as the country is one of the world’s largest producers of palm oil. 

The industry generates substantial amounts of waste — including empty fruit bunches (EFBs), palm oil mill effluent (POME) and palm kernel shells (PKS). 

There are ongoing efforts to manage these wastes more effectively and sustainably. 

For instance, converting waste into bioenergy or incorporating it into building materials not only helps reduce the environmental impact but also adds economic value to the palm oil industry. 

BioLoop Sdn Bhd co-founder and CEO Mah Jun Kit said the strategy involves utilising biotechnology and Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL) to divert substantial quantities of organic waste from landfills and transform it into valuable products. 

The method is significantly faster than traditional waste management processes and leads to reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 

He shared that overall, Malaysia produces a substantial amount of waste, including significant quantities of food and agricultural waste. 

In 2022, the total waste generated was approximately 7.4 million tonnes, and he believes this figure will increase in 2024. 

“Every two weeks, the KLCC could be filled from floor to ceiling, or every day, an Olympic-sized pool could be filled — very unsustainable,” he said, illustrating the scenario to The Malaysian Reserve (TMR). 

Mah emphasised the particular scrutiny Malaysia has faced recently due to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, along with concerns regarding the cleanliness of its palm oil industry, all of which have contributed to a negative perception. 

To combat this, he said altering the narrative around palm oil involves making the supply chain more environmentally friendly and ensuring byproducts are used sustainably. 

One method is repurposing palm oil byproducts, which are typically discarded or left on estates, using them as feed for larvae. 

BioLoop uses palm kernel expeller and palm kernel cake to nourish larvae, which subsequently produce both protein and fertiliser. 

The approach not only adds value to the byproducts but also significantly bolsters the sustainability narrative of palm oil mills. 

Apart from that, converting waste into valuable resources such as protein and fertiliser, which can then be reintegrated into the economic system, has the potential to greatly improve global environmental sustainability by fostering a more effective and circular economy. 

This practice could also reduce the need for land currently used for soybean and maize production, particularly in countries such as Brazil and the US. 

Additionally, the approach could decrease the reliance on fishmeal in animal feed, which is often sourced from overfishing, which not only degrades marine biology but also diminishes the diversity of marine life. 

By reducing the demand for fishmeal, the solution could contribute to healthier ocean ecosystems, potentially allowing fish populations to rebound and marine biodiversity to improve. 

Mah said the government is encouraging local municipalities to adopt BSF technology for food waste management and has even provided grants to support these initiatives. 

Optimising Palm Oil Waste 

Traditional palm oil waste disposal methods typically involve leaving waste on the estate as compost or selling it as low-value feedstock to fisheries and cattle farms. 

While these methods are beneficial, it does not fully capitalise on the waste’s potential value. 

BioLoop leverages the waste in a more innovative way by using it to cultivate larvae, which are extremely rich in protein and subsequently produce high-quality organic fertiliser. 

It also strategically forms joint ventures with companies along its value chain to ensure a sustainable, long-term source of waste and offtake, which is critical from a business perspective. 

The company currently participates in a joint venture with a leading biogas technology provider, aiming to establish a comprehensive solution for palm oil waste management. 

BioLoop plans to extend its operations to East Malaysia, capitalising on the high volume of palm oil waste that is currently underutilised. 

The next step involves replicating the model in Indonesia, focusing primarily on palm oil waste, a staple of their business model, with potential future applications in managing food waste. 

In contrast to Malaysia — where the market is relatively unified across both West and East Malaysia — Mah said Indonesia presents a more fragmented landscape with scattered palm oil industries. 

The segmentation necessitates the formation of local partnerships to facilitate expansion and leverage business opportunities effectively. 

Despite the presence of several BSFL companies in Indonesia, Mah said Malaysia’s palm oil technological innovations are increasingly recognised and adopted across the region, setting the stage for BioLoop’s ambitious long-term growth and sustainability initiatives. 

Currently processing approximately 20 tonnes of waste daily, the company is looking to expand its capacity to a medium-term goal of handling 100 tonnes per day within the next three to four years. 

A key strategy in achieving this involves forming a partnership with the biogas facility to create co-located sites, which entails establishing operations directly adjacent to palm oil mills. 

While initially considering a centralised model where all waste would be transported to a single location, the approach was deemed impractical and costly due to the scattered nature of the mills across Malaysia and the logistics involved. 

“We are currently implementing a new project and plan to use this successful model as a showcase to other palm oil mills, inviting them to see our operations and consider a similar setup,” he said. 

Challenges and Changes in the Industry

The influx of new companies poses both a risk and an opportunity. 

For instance, customers often perceive BSF protein as expensive due to high production costs, leading farmers to disregard it as an option. 

The perception prevents them from presenting their product effectively, a barrier BioLoop aims to overcome by promoting BSF as both sustainable and affordable. 

Another significant challenge is maintaining product consistency amid clients’ demand for a consistent product, but variables like using different food wastes can alter the nutrient content of the larvae on a daily basis. 

Feed millers require stable protein and fat levels, necessitating rigorous testing and standardisation of its feedstock to ensure uniformity. 

For this, Mah said BioLoop strives to perfect its formula using consistent palm-based byproducts to meet these needs, addressing the issue of variability and reinforcing the idea that BSF is not inherently expensive. 

“We often hear the government discussing the inclusion of new alternative proteins in local animal feed.

Historically, subsidies for chicken and eggs have solidified the poultry supply chain, while major companies have maintained control over the feed supply. 

“We aim to address this by advocating for local policies that mandate a small percentage, perhaps 1% or even 0.5%, of protein in feed to be sourced locally. 

“Although 99% could still be imported, this small local quota could significantly benefit domestic producers due to the large scale of the industry. The protein source for this quota does not necessarily need to be BSF; any local source would suffice, providing us with an opportunity to compete,” he added. 

Historically, subsidies have focused on supporting the poultry industry. 

However, shifting some of these subsidies to alternative protein sources such as BSF could significantly help the company expand its operations more efficiently in Malaysia. 

Nevertheless, Mah ultimately believes that with or without government intervention, BSF is here to stay and while intervention could accelerate the maturity of this industry, companies will find a way to make it work. 

Policies in Malaysia Regarding Palm Oil Waste

The Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) told TMR that its collaboration with the Ministry of Plantation and Commodities (KPK) and industry stakeholders, has developed the National Agricommodity Policy (DAKN 2030) which aims to address various aspects of managing palm oil waste, with a specific focus on reducing its environmental impact. 

Key strategies outlined in the policy include the utilisation of biomass and biofuels derived from the palm oil sector. 

Moreover, several other pertinent regulations are in place to govern the management of palm oil waste. 

These include the National Renewable Energy Act, which provides a framework for promoting renewable energy sources, and the Environmental Quality (Prescribed Premises) (Crude Palm Oil) Regulations of 1977, which stipulate wastewater treatment standards to control biochemical oxygen demand levels. 

Notably, as of Jan 1, 2014, new mills and existing mills seeking throughput expansion are mandated to install full biogas trapping or methane avoidance facilities, further emphasising the commitment to sustainable waste management practices in the palm oil industry. 

To contrast Malaysia’s waste management practices in the palm oil industry with those of other significant palm oil-producing nations, MPOB DG Datuk Dr Ahmad Parveez Ghulam Kadir said the waste management within the industry is subject to strict regulations, with the sector demonstrating a high level of adherence to these standards. 

“Comparatively, waste management practices in other major palm oil-producing countries vary. Some countries may have similar regulatory frameworks and compliance levels, while others may face challenges in enforcing regulations or implementing effective waste management practices. 

“It is important for all palm oil-producing countries to continuously improve their waste management practices to mitigate environmental impacts and promote sustainability,” he said in a written statement to TMR

Technologies or Practices to Enhance Sustainability in the Industry

MPOB is actively promoting new technologies and practices aimed at bolstering the sustainability of waste management in the palm oil industry including: 

i. Biogas capture and utilisation and methane avoidance

Currently, around 30% of palm oil mills are equipped with facilities for trapping biogas, which is generated from POME (wastewater). 

This captured biogas serves as a renewable energy (RE) source and can be utilised in various ways, including co-firing in biomass boilers within the mills, generating electricity for grid connection or external users and supporting rural electrification efforts. 

Leveraging biogas from palm oil mill effluent has the potential to significantly mitigate environmental impact, with an estimated annual reduction of approximately 5.5 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent through biogas capture and methane avoidance. 

This underscores the substantial contribution of biogas utilisation to GHG emissions reduction and underscores its importance as a sustainable energy source within the palm oil industry. 

ii. Biomass to energy conversion 

Biomass energy conversion offers a promising solution to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, utilising palm oil and oil palm bio-mass as primary sources. 

While palm biodiesel adoption gains traction due to national policies like the phased implementation of B20 biodiesel in Malaysia from February 2020, challenges persist in biomass energy development under existing regulations. 

Despite biomass contributing less than 2% to Malaysia’s energy mix in 2014, pilot projects for biomass cogeneration and pellet production are underway. 

Solid biofuels such as pellets find increasing use in power plants and cogeneration systems, with potential export markets emerging such as Japan and Korea. 

While direct biomass utilisation is feasible for dry feedstock, pre-treatment is needed for densification. 

Advanced biofuels require more complex processes, highlighting the importance of cost-effective technologies. 

Leveraging oil palm biomass and other resources offers significant environmental advantages over fossil fuels, given their renewable nature. 

Integrating biomass as a nutrient and energy source throughout the oil palm supply chain can substantially reduce GHG emissions. 

iii. Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) 

Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) is produced by converting waste oil and biomass into renewable diesel and biojet fuel through biochemical processes. 

This can be achieved by integrating existing refinery and petrochemical operations to produce HVO and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) using various feedstocks such as used cooking oil, palm fatty acid distillates, sludge palm oil and even microalgae oil. 

Successful implementation relies on systematic feedstock sourcing and multifaceted production of both fuel and chemicals. 

iv. Biomass into value-added products 

The utilisation of solid oil palm biomass has led to the creation of a diverse array of value-added products, spanning from solid fuels and fertilisers to wood products, biocom- posites and pulp and paper materials. 

Other than that, it is also used to create eco-friendly materials such as bioplastics and bio-based polymers, offering sustainable alternatives to conventional plastics in various industries. 

Integrated biorefinery platforms maximise biomass usage, converting it into diverse products through different technologies. 

Additionally, by-products such as palm kernel cake and palm press fibre serve as nutritious animal feed supplements. 

v. Technology for wastewater treatment 

MPOB has developed and implemented technology for wastewater treatment, offering tailored solutions for various contaminants, flow rates and discharge standards based on specific wastewater characteristics and regulatory mandates. 

By integrating multiple treatment processes within treatment plants, efficiency can be optimised, ensuring compliance with stringent environmental regulations. 

Collaboration With Industry Players

Nevertheless, MPOB actively engages in collaborations with both local and international organisations to elevate waste management practices within the oil palm industry. 

These partnerships are geared towards promoting sustainable waste management, generating income and cultivating a circular economy within the industry. 

One notable outcome of the collaborations is the dissemination of waste management technologies to stakeholders in the oil palm sector. 

“Currently, approximately 30% of the technologies developed by MPOB in collaboration with local or international companies have been successfully commercialised. 

“This indicates a significant impact in terms of implementing effective waste management practices and creating economic opportunities within the industry,” Ahmad Parveez said. 

Future Plans to Enhance Waste Management Techniques

MPOB is strategically focused on advancing waste management techniques in the palm oil industry through the development of biomass and bioenergy sectors. 

Recognising the abundant biomass resources available and the imperative to diversify energy sources amid petroleum scarcity, Ahmad Parveez said MPOB’s future plans for enhancing waste management techniques in the palm oil industry focus on the development of the biomass and bio-energy sectors. 

It includes next-generation biofuels and hydrocracked fuels, facilitated by the adoption of disruptive and upgrading technologies for biomass-to-energy conversion within palm oil mill complexes. 

By harnessing solid, liquid and gaseous fuels as part of a biorefinery value chain, MPOB aims to maximise resource utilisation and minimise waste generation. 

Furthermore, MPOB intends to champion the biorefinery concept in the oil palm industry, leveraging various biomass components such as EFBs, PKS and mesocarp fibres to produce value-added products, biofuels and biochemicals. 

Integrating biorefinery processes with existing palm oil mills holds the potential to enhance resource efficiency, foster sustainability and promote circular economy principles within the industry. 

In brief, palm oil waste poses a significant challenge in Malaysia, but innovative approaches such as those offered by Bio-Loop are a step forward in addressing the issue — benefitting both the environment and the economy. 

Moreover, collaborative efforts between companies and government bodies, such as the MPOB are also enhancing waste management practices. 

Looking ahead, continued improvement in waste management techniques and the promotion of bioenergy are crucial for advancing the sustainability of the palm oil industry.


Sumber : The Malaysian Reserve