Issues on Organic Wastage

Oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) was first introduced into Malaysia as early as in the late 1870s as an ornamental plant and commercial planting started only in 1917 on a small scale.  Large scale commercial cultivation of the crop picked up during the 1960s as a result of government's crop diversification policy to avoid over dependence on a single commodity rubber.  From then on, the oil palm industry has witnessed phenomenal growth and has evolved from a mere exporter of crude palm oil into more diversified products and supporting industries.

Therefore, the palm oil industry generates an abundance of oil palm biomass such as the Empty Fruit Bunch (EFB), shell, frond, trunk and Palm Oil Mill Effluent (POME). For 88 million tons of Fresh Fruit Bunch (FFB) processed in 2008, the amount of oil palm biomass was more than 26 million tones. Previously, EFB has been dumped for soil mulching in the plantation area. Subsequently the industry had adopted composting technology in order to solve its waste management issue in compliance with RSPO requirements to reduce greenhouse gasses emission.

However, composting of EFB requires high inputs in terms of land, time and logistics. The compost produced through accelerated composting normally contains low nutrient, high moisture and impractical to be applied in plantation due to its bulkiness and low quality characteristics. Furthermore, composting of EFB would contribute to environmental hazards through releasing of leachate to the environment.

There are 3 major sources of waste coming from the operations of the Palm Oil Mill. First, Empty Fruit Bunch (EFB) waste is normally land-filled in the plantation. This involves costs for transportation, manpower resources and land usage whilst bringing no benefits.

Next is that the Palm Oil Mill Effluent (POME) lagoons require constant maintenance and modifications to meet the constantly demanding Department of Environment (DoE) discharge requirements. And finally, the decanter cake or sludge and boiler ash are required to be transported out and disposed off incurring costs whilst giving nothing back to the plantation.

The biggest problems facing the palm oil millers in Malaysia is the disposal of the Empty Fruit Bunch (EFB), after the oil has been extracted. The current trend among the millers is limited to allowing the EFB to rot in the estates, burning in incinerators, converting into low grade fertilizers or use as low-grade low-burn fuel in boilers.

Historical data shows conversion rate between 75-100%. Higher volume to handle against original estimated plan (50%)

The compost plants are not able to take more than one third of POME, leaving behind a huge volume to be treated.Most of the closed system plants are not able to accommodate all the EFB, leading to frequent incidences of EFB piling up

Mechanized application limited to flat and undulating areas and limiting compost application to more areas. For FY 2011/12 application plan, mechanized application is planned for 60% of total area identified for compost application. Balance 40% mainly at East Malaysia where 100% is facilitated by manual application.

In general, all the compost samples average nutrient content were lower in N, P2O5, K2O and MgO content as against the minimum guaranteed level (1.8:0.5:3.4:1.0).  Inconsistent quality of different batches of compost will have different nutrient contents and highly variable from time to time. Hence, there is a need to supplement with inorganic fertilizer but with variable rates in order to meet the palm minimum nutrient requirement

Based on 2010-11 average results, generally need to supplement Ammonium Sulphate at the range of 1.00-2.00 kg/palm and MOP at the range of 0.25-3.00 kg/palm for those fields applied with these batches of compost material.

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