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Oxford researcher promotes sustainable waste management at Penang Hill

Penang Hill

Dr Kok Siew Ng (University of Oxford) and Dr Eleni Iacovidou (Brunel University London), in collaboration with the Founder and also the President of Higher Education Youth Association (HEYA), Mr Tze Howe Ooi, met the General Manager of Penang Hill Corporation, Dato Cheok Lay Leng and his team. The meeting was set up to discuss the issues and challenges of solid waste and wastewater management at Penang Hill.

The main operation of Penang Hill Corporation is to assist Penang State Government in managing the funicular train system and the development of Penang Hill. Penang Hill is one of the most popular tourist attraction areas in Penang, receiving approximately 2 million tourists every year. There are hawker centres, restaurants, hotels and residential housing on the hill. These establishments create a significant amount of waste. As reported by the Penang Hill Corporation’s auditing activities, tourism is also a significant cause of waste, especially litter.  According to the audits carried out on nature trails on the hill, large amounts of plastic bottles and other packaging were disposed in an inappropriate manner, causing irreversible environmental pollution on the hill and the wider environment.

The solid waste management on the Penang Hill area is under the management of the Penang City Council while Penang Hill Corporation is responsible for treating the wastewater before discharging to the environment. Penang Hill Corporation is introducing decentralised wastewater recovery facilities on the hill and there are plans in the future to develop a solid waste management system that is more effective and sustainable.

Dr Ng says, “Everyone should play a part in protecting the natural heritage at Penang Hill and waste management is an important aspect of which should not be neglected.” The team was then brought to Penang Hill for a site tour to visit the wastewater treatment plant and the Habitat.


The SYNERGORS project (“A systems approach to synergistic utilisation of secondary organic streams”), funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), is led by Dr Kok Siew Ng from the Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford. This project aims to develop new systems approaches and decision-making tools for promoting resource recovery from secondary organic waste streams including fossil- (e.g. used plastics) and biomass-derived waste (e.g. food waste, residual biomass).

SYNERGORS will provide significant insights into various options for organic waste reduction and utilisation, and propose viable business models to attract stakeholders in the commercial sectors to invest in these areas. Furthermore, the research will address various socio-environmental challenges faced by human and living communities, the rising global demands in energy and commodities, and lessening burdens on the landfill, water and atmosphere.

It is envisaged that the outcomes from this project (e.g. decision-making tool and roadmap) can be adopted in the UK and other developing countries in improving the policies and practices in relation to organic waste management. The objectives of the project are well aligned with the UK Industrial Strategy in enhancing resource efficiency while achieving a sustainable industrial growth and a more resilient economy. The project has received support from a number of UK and international organisations (academia, industry and government), providing multidisciplinary expertise to address the global challenges in waste management.


Dr Ng would like to express his gratitude to the NERC (now part of UKRI) for their invaluable support for this initiative. The British Council is also acknowledged as initial collaboration between the UK and Malaysia was first established through Newton Fund Researcher Links Workshop. The current fellowship project funded by NERC has enabled further collaboration to be sustained for the next few years.

Dr Ng would also like to thank Professor Ir. Dr. Denny KS Ng (Associate Head of the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Heriot-Watt University Malaysia), Associate Professor Ir. Dr. Wan Azlina bt. Wan Abdul Karim Ghani (Director of Sustainable Process Engineering Research Centre - SPERC, UPM) and Mr Tze Howe Ooi (President of Higher Education Youth Association - HEYA) for arranging the meetings and visits in Malaysia.

Further information

Please contact Dr Kok Siew Ng ( if you are interested in learning more about the project.