German Managing Director Reflects on Over 40 Years of Waste to Energy in Asia : Martin Plays the Long Game on Waste to Energy in Asia

Martin Edmund Fleck waste to energy china asia
© Martin/Edmund Fleck

Edmund Fleck, managing director of German waste to energy technology stalwart Martin on the company’s long-term Asian adventure…

Martin GmbH für Umwelt- und Energietechnik has been active in Asia for more than 40 years, with the first plant with Martin grate technology going into operation in 1974. Since that time, the company has participated with partners in basically all countries in Asia where waste to energy plants have been built.

Japan has a 50+ year long tradition of thermal treatment of residual waste, mainly due to scarce land resources. Whereas earlier plants were operated only a certain number of hours per day and had no heat recovery, 24/7 operation as well as heat recovery has been the standard requirement for quite some time now. Plants are replaced on a regular and planned basis, thus there is a steady market for WtE. Over the years, 88 plants with 199 lines have been equipped with Martin grate systems.

Taiwan built many plants in the 1980s to 2000s, which pretty much covered the demand needed. Not much has been going on since.

South Korea has some 45 plants in operation. Their philosophy is to replace single combustion lines or complete plants after around 20 years of operation; realising upgrades or improvements of existing plants to extend their lifetime is not their way forward. South Korea is therefore a small but reliable market.

Singapore treats all residual waste in WtE Plants, which have to maintain a certain ‘spare’ capacity, as no landfill is available. Plants are replaced in regular intervals. Currently 17 out of 19 lines in operation in Singapore are equipped with Martin grates, four more are under construction.

Other countries in the region have few plants in operation and/or planning, but one cannot really talk about a ‘market’, with a regular number of projects to be developed and built.

The big exception in Asia has been China, where the government decided about 20 years ago to move away from landfilling and make treatment of residual waste in WtE plants mandatory. Many of the 5-year plans in these years, including the current one, have set ambitious goals for an increase in WtE capacity. Thus in recent years, around 75% of the worldwide capacity awarded each year was in China.

China is a big market and a big success for Martin, 240 lines in 128 plants are equipped with Martin grate systems.

India is slowly turning to WtE. It is still a difficult market, as in many areas waste management schemes are not really set up yet. Budgets for WtE plants are extremely low, thus the few plants built have very low standard and don’t function well. Martin together with its long-time partner CNIM has founded a company in India, which will serve the market with locally manufactured products.

Overall, Asia is a very diverse region. On the one hand, it has markets with well-established WtE structures, and on the other hand, regions still highly dependent on landfilling.