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Landfill And Material Recycling In Malaysia

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 5451 words Published: 27th Apr 2017

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The generation of solid waste, and particularly Municipal Solid Waste, is a consequence of modem living and an increasingly urbanized society. Solid waste prevention and management is one of the keys to sustainable environment and development. Waste is defined as an object the holder discards, intends to discard or is required to discard [1-2]. Something becomes waste when it loses its primary function for the user. Waste is therefore relative to this primary function. However, and this is the second perspective, what is considered waste with regard to this primary function may be useful for a secondary function. In other words, somebody’s waste is often somebody else’s (secondary) raw material [1]. Solid waste can be typically classified as: municipal solid waste including plastic waste (MSW), construction and demolition waste (C&D), hazardous solid wastes (HW), bio-medical waste (BMW), and electronic waste (e-waste) [3]. Municipal solid waste (MSW) management comprises of practices ranging from waste collection to final disposal which is connected in numerous ways to many other environmental, economic, and social issues with most of the answers having broader implications. Sustainable waste management is about using resources more efficiently both at the raw and finished state [4-7]. Looking from the perspective of sustainable waste management practices and the environment, the technologies or policies on MSW management should embody a reasonable balance of feasible, cost-effective, environmentally beneficial, and socially sensitive solutions to the problems. It means that a sustainable waste management practice does not only achieve a specific goal in MSW management, it takes into account the demands of the specific situations where the proposed solution is to be implemented [8]. Solid waste management is a major challenge for Malaysia to address in the light of her Vision 2020 which lays out the direction for Malaysia in becoming a fully developed nation. The National Vision Policy (NVP), developed to meet the challenges posed by Vision 2020, incorporates key strategies of the New Economic Policy (NEP) and the National Development Policy (NDP). A key thrust of the NVP is pursuing environmentally sustainable development to reinforce long-term growth, which presents challenges to established policies and practices in the rapidly expanding area of solid waste management” [9].

Waste Management Concepts

There are a number of concepts about waste management which vary in their usage between countries or regions. The following are some of the most general, widely used concepts:

Waste hierarchy: The waste hierarchy is the “3R” concept where the “R” stands for reduce, reuse and recycle, it classify waste management strategies according to their desirability to achieving waste minimization. The waste hierarchy remains the cornerstone of most waste minimization strategies. The aim of the waste hierarchy is to extract as much as possible the maximum practical benefits from products and to generate the minimum amount of waste [10-12].

Polluter Pays Principle: the polluter pays principle is a principle where the polluting party pays for the impact caused to the environment. With respect to waste management, this generally refers to the requirement for a waste generator to pay for appropriate disposal of the unrecoverable material [10-13].

In Malaysia context, the waste hierarchy is the practice adopted for municipal solid waste management [14-19]. It is a major focus of the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Act 2007.


Municipal solid waste MSW management is a major challenge in urban areas throughout the world with greater effect in the rapidly growing cities and towns of developing countries [20]. Globally, municipal solid waste generation was about 0.49 billion tons in 1997 with an estimated annual growth rate of 3.2-4.5% in developed nations and 2-3% in developing nations [21]. In Asia region, MSW generation has been increasing at a rate of 3 to 7% per year as a result of population growth, changing consumption patterns, and the expansion of trade and industry in urban centres. The generation of municipal solid waste by the public is a function of socio-economic background (buying power), cultural background, locality (urban or rural setting) and the environment awareness. The generation and the composition of solid wastes vary according to size/population and income level [22-24]. Malaysian population has been in the increase at a rate of about 2.4% per annum since 1994 [25] due to industrialization, urban migration, affluence, population growth, tourism and high influx of foreign workforce/students which has lead to massive developmental projects such as building the latest designs of residential and business buildings, construction of spacious highways, tourist resorts and so on [7, 22, 26-27]. The growing population comes with increased generation of municipal solid waste (MSW), which requires proper management to protect the people and the environment. As the solid waste generation increases in Malaysia, it puts a pressure on and shortens the duration time of, the existing landfill [28]. In Malaysia, waste collection varies from city to city with about 80% generated waste collection in Kuala Lumpur while a general average estimate of about 70% of waste generated in Malaysia is collected and 1-5% of waste is recycled (from the collected waste) while the remaining is taken to the disposal sites [29-30]. The major MSW management practice in Malaysia is waste disposal to landfill with approximately 80-95% of the total collected waste sent to landfills [31-34]. Current waste disposal method of landfill needs improvements to prolong the landfill life and to minimize the problem of land scarcity [31]. In 2007 about 26 million tonnes of waste were produced in Malaysia of which 30% were municipal solid waste (MSW), 34% from construction, industrial waste – 23%, Hazardous waste – 9% and 1% waste generation from public places [35]. The average amount of MSW generated ranges between 0.5 and 0.8 kg/cap/day for rural areas and smaller towns [22, 27, 36] while households of major cities and the capital Kuala Lumpur produce about 1.7 kg/cap/day – 1.9 kg/cap/day [9, 14, 22, 37]. The daily MSW quantity was 17,000 tonnes per day in 2002 and by year 2020, the quantity of MSW generated is estimated to increase to over 30,000 tonnes per day [14, 23, 26, 32, 36, 38-39]. MSW management operations absorb large portions of municipal operating budgets, of which as much as 60% are for collection and transfer of the wastes for disposal [8, 29]. For a better understanding and planning of solid waste management, information on the quantity of solid waste generated in an area is fundamental to almost all aspects of solid waste management [40].

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Malaysia Waste Characterization

The municipal solid waste (MSW) in Malaysia is made up of waste from households, commercial, institutes, landscape conservation, street cleansing, and industry construction and even tourist activities [14, 30, 32-33, 38]. Characteristics of MSW vary from city to city and season to season [8]. The solid wastes of rural towns in Malaysia are significantly different from those of large cities, having more organics (food wastes) but few plastics. In industrialized cities MSW is quantified and characterized by municipal authorities at regular intervals. Malaysian municipal solid waste (MSW) generated consists of different constituents such as biodegradable materials (food waste, Garden waste, Animal waste and Material contaminated by such waste) which has high moisture content and a bulk density above 200 kg/m3, resistant polymers, paper, Wood, Textiles, Leather, Plastic, Rubber, Paint, oil, grease, chemical, organic sludge, glass, ceramic, mineral soil, concrete, and masonry (construction debris) [7, 14]. In the MSW waste analysis by Saeed [22], it shows that about 48% of municipal solid waste generated are from residential, 24% commercial generated waste, 11% from street cleaning, 7% from landscape conservation, 6% from institutional waste and 4% from industry and construction [32].

A waste characterization study for the city of Kuala Lumpur shows that the main components of Malaysian waste were food, paper, and plastic which comprise 80% of overall weight [22, 24, 38] with high moisture content ranging from 52.6% to 66.2% [22-23, 29, 41-43]. High moisture content in waste reduces energy value of waste and creates extra cost in the use of the waste as refuse derived fuel (RDF) or even incineration because the waste might need to be dried before incinerating. Similarly increasing pressure and temperature in the pile of solid waste or landfill favours the growth of leachate from solid waste which if not controlled might enter into the ground and surface water and can be dangerous for human health [22, 24, 44]. From literature, the waste composition seems to be variable. However, the main part of Malaysia MSW is organic waste; according to data from the ninth Malaysia Plan, Malaysia MSW composition is estimated about 45% of food waste, 24% of plastic, 7% paper materials, 6% of iron and glass while others made up the remaining percentage [32-33, 45]. Table 1 shows the average composition by weight percentage of components of MSW generated by various sources in Kuala Lumpur [22] while Table 2 depicts the daily generation of Municipal solid waste by states in Malaysia from year 2000 to year 2010 [46].

The current generation indicates 60% increase over the past 10 years. The larger amount of Malaysian MSW is recyclables which include paper, plastic, glass, metal and aluminum [46-47]. Recyclable items represent over 40% of the total waste volume which without retrieval activity, these valuable materials will be disposed off into landfill. The implications of this practice are the lost of these resources and the rapid utilization of the landfill space. Thus, it will reduce the length of the life-span of landfills in the country. The existing waste disposal habit among Malaysians sees a very high potential of diverting waste via recycling. One obstacle in material recovery practice is that Malaysian MSW is highly commingled. As a result, the waste contains high moisture content and reduces the value of the recyclable items. Sorting at waste generation source will help in reducing the difficulty of high moisture content and improve recycling and resource recovery, thus extending and maintaining low level of pollution from landfill.


Solid waste management in Malaysia is the responsibility of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (MHLG) with a regulatory body known as National Solid Waste Management Department under this ministry (MHLG) which was established in 2007 [36, 45, 48]. Local authorities are responsible for public cleansing and have to dispose all collected waste in a sanitary way[36]. MSW management involves waste collection, transportation, disposal and monitoring of the disposed waste to protect the environment. It was found from literature that waste collection in Malaysia is more effective and efficient in the richer communities than poorer ones [36]. In view of achieving an improved system for all local authorities and realizing that the lack of appropriate policy is a factor that averts sustainable waste management in the country, the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Bill (SWPCM) was approved in 2007 [14-15, 26, 36, 45, 48-49]. Solid waste management is one element of the ninth Malaysia plan. This plan implies the upgrading of existing unsanitary landfills, the construction of new sanitary landfills and the construction of transfer stations with material recovery facilities with aim of strengthening the institutional capacity of respective agencies as well as creating a society that is committed towards waste minimisation and achieving a recycling target of 22% by 2020 [29, 36, 50]. The Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Act 2007 was gazette on 30 August 2007 with the focus to pave away for federal take-over of solid waste management and privatization of solid waste handling. Consequential amendments were also made to three other policies [14].

Challenges in Solid Waste Management

Lack of appropriate policy is the main constraint to sustainable waste management in Malaysia [46]. As a result, the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Bill (SWPCM) was approved in 2007 with the aims of providing an act and regulate the management of solid waste and public cleansing in order to maintain proper sanitation in the country [26]. The following are the commonly identified problems which affect the proper handling of solid waste on the side of the management authorities:

Inadequate service coverage and operational inefficiencies of services,

Limited utilization of recycling activities,

Inadequate landfill disposal, and

Inadequate management of hazardous and healthcare waste.

Waste Management Process and Practices

Waste Collection, Transportation and Disposal Service in Malaysia

Municipal solid waste collection schemes of cities in the developing world generally serve only a limited part of the urban population [4, 21, 39, 51-57]. The people facing more problem of poor waste-collection services are usually the low-income population living in peri-urban areas [58-59]. In Kuala Lumpur, 80-90% of the generated MSW is collected; however over 60% of the rural population in Malaysia does not have any waste collection service and this has lead to many illegal small dumping sites [9]. The most common waste collection process in Malaysia is the door-to-door collection system where trash bins are collected from every household. Inhabitants of high-rise buildings or of informal settlements have to bring the waste to communal waste containers [36]. Waste separation has not been a common practice in Malaysia and this leads to the collection of all types of waste in one bin [36]. The solid management responsibility (collection, transportation and disposal) of 48 Local Authorities has been privatized since 1st January 1997. Idaman Bersih Sdn Bhd manages the waste for northern region of Peninsular Malaysis, Alam Flora Sdn. Bhd manages the waste generated in the Central and Eastern Region of Peninsular Malaysia while Southern Waste Management Sdn. Bhd manages the waste in the Southern Region of the peninsular [14, 45]. The frequency of household waste collections is normally three times a week whereas waste from shops and commercial premises are collected daily [9]. From [60], about 50% of the overall national waste amount collected is open dumped, 30% is landfilled, 10% is composted, 5% is recycled and 5% percent is incinerated. There are about 7 mini-incinerators with capacity between 5 to 20 tones per day owned by the government (located in Pulau Pangkor, Pulau Langkawi, Pulau Tioman and Cameron Highlands) [61] and a private operated incinerator by Recycle Energy Sdn Bhd at Semenyi with a capacity of 1000 Metrics tones per day [23].

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Waste Recycling and Composting

Waste minimisation is the bed rock of sustainable and sound waste management with global focus on realising a “Material Cycle Society”. It is the desire to reduce waste generation at source, minimise the amount of waste disposed at landfills and to maximise the efficiency of resource utilisation. Recycling is a practice that utilises raw and finished products more efficiently and effectively. Recycling of inorganic materials from Malaysia municipal solid waste has been a practice by informal sector although such activities are seldom recognised, supported, or promoted by the municipal authorities [8]. Recycling in Malaysia became a government programs in the early 1990s and the first official recycling campaign was launched in October 1991 in Shah Alam, Selangor by the Minister of Housing and Local Government [5]. Twenty local authorities were identified as the lead agencies to promote recycling. This recycling campaign is to be part of the “Clean and Beautiful Program” launched by the ministry earlier. In 1992, the minister announced that all city and municipal councils would be required to launch recycling programs. On December 2000 the government re-launched the national recycling campaign with 29 local authorities participating. The second phase of the new recycling program was launched on 11 November 2002 with 95 local authorities participating. The target was “to reduce waste generation to a minimum rate of 22% by the year 2020” [5, 23, 62-63]. The present recycling program also involves waste management companies, waste recycling firms, Non-Governmental Organizations, shopping mall management companies, schools, hospitals, and religious organizations. During 2001-2003, the government spent MYR25 million on awareness campaigns and another MYR11 million purchasing and building an infrastructure to support the program [5]. Recycling campaigns were also carried out by the local authorities such as printing flyers and brochures and holding public briefings. They also provide recycling bins for paper, glass, and aluminium in strategic places, such as shopping centres, schools, and transport terminals. After more than ten years, the official recycling figure is just 5%, although there are reports of higher than 5% recycling. For example, in 2003 Penang Island’s recycling rate was 9.8%, up from 3% in 2000 [5, 9]. Many Malaysians seem to treat recycling bins as an ordinary waste-disposal bin. Indeed, it was so bad that the Penang State government has taken back most of the bins as almost all the recycling bins contain all sorts of waste [5]. Although a large amount of Malaysian wastes could be recycled, less than 5% of the total (almost 10,000 tonnes per day) is actually separated and recycled. There is a good demand for waste plastics, paper and glass, with resale prices of about US$60 per tonne, US$44 per tonne and US$32 per tone, respectively. Recovery of only 5% of the available waste plastics, paper and glass is estimated to yield a total of about US$3.4 million per year. Recommendations to increase recycling are discussed in the paper [64]. More priority is given to recycling in Malaysia than composting.

Composting is defined as the biological decomposition of organic matter under controlled aerobic conditions to form a stable, humus-like end product. The process is facilitated by a diverse population of microbes, whose population dynamics vary greatly both temporally and spatially, and generally involves the development of thermophilic temperatures as a result of biologically produced heat [65-66]. Composting is applicable to MSW or separately collected leaves, yard, and food waste in Malaysia. The benefits of recycling and composting are: the processes cut down the need for disposal capacity and lowers emissions from landfills and incinerators as well as reducing litter. Secondly, the use of recycled materials in industry reduces energy use and emission; lessens impact when raw material is extracted or manufactured, and conserves raw materials [67]. Recycling also provides a supplementary income source for the lower income group while compost product are used to improve the soil quality [68].

Malaysia Waste Potential for Recycling:

Recycling in the context of solid waste may be defined as the reclamation of material and its reuse which could include repair, remanufacture and conversion of materials, parts and products. Reclamation of materials from solid waste is not something new [69]. It is the beneficial-reuse of products that would otherwise be disposed off. It diverts waste from overloaded landfills besides providing raw materials that consume less fuel during the manufacturing process. It is an important aspect of an efficient and effective solid waste management system [61]. To understand the composition of MSW in Malaysia, an assessment of the waste generated and recyclable potential of Malaysia municipal solid waste conducted for Kuala Lumpur city by Saeed et al [32] shows from their prediction from the current trend of waste generation in Kuala Lumpur city that the MSW has a good potential of recyclables. Table 1 shows the recyclable components and their percentage share and recycling rate in tons per year. The results indicate that, food (organic) waste is the major component followed by mix paper and plastics. But unfortunately the attention paid by the authority towards this direction is not sufficient enough to tackle this issue. The Agenda 21 [70], defined environmentally sound technologies as a technology that protect the environment; moreover, recycling most of the wastes and handle residual wastes in more acceptable manner. Since 1993 a major effort of recycling was launched by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government but unfortunately limited recycling activities taken place [67].

Though recycling activity in Malaysia is rising up, the recycling industry still needs to be enhanced. The Malaysian’s attitude towards recycling is higher, but only few practice it [71].

Attitude to the Environmental and Level of Waste Management Awareness in Malaysia

Environmental problems are caused directly or indirectly by the patterns of production by industries, patterns of consumption and behaviour of the consumers [72]. Attitude is a mental and neural state of readiness, which exerts a directing, influence upon the individual’s response to all objects and situations with which it is related [73]. Attitudes to the environment are rooted in a person’s concept of self and the degree to which an individual perceives himself or herself to be an integral part of the natural environment [74]. The shaping of attitude and values, commitment and skills needed to preserve and protect the environment begins at an early age of which educators play an influential role in developing new patterns of behaviours for individuals [72]. In Malaysia, recycling program has been widely initiated since 1993. However, to date the recycling rate in Malaysia is only five percent [75]. A survey by Said et al. [72] using drop and collect method was conducted for 285 school teachers who were randomly selected from ten regular government schools in the state of Selangor, Malaysia to determine the level of knowledge, environmental concern and ecologically conscious consumer behavior and identify the extent of involvement in nature-related activities of school teachers. The result if the survey illustrated the presence of high level of environmental concern among the teachers, fair environmental knowledge but generally poor in understanding of the underlying causes of environmental problems. The practices of environmentally responsible behavior were not in concert with the level of concern and knowledge and the respondents were not actively involved in nature-related activities [72]. Another assessment of the level of environmental knowledge among households in Selangor, Malaysia was conducted by Haron et al [76]. The study examine the sources of their environmental knowledge, determine factors that lead to different levels of knowledge and analyse the relationship between knowledge and environmental attitude, behaviour and participation. The results of the study indicate that, in general, respondents’ basic or general environmental knowledge was high. However, when questioned on various scientific environmental terms, the majority of the respondents were not familiar with most of them. Respondents indicated that their main sources of environmental knowledge and information were newspapers, television and radio. Lower levels of education were reflected in the level of environmental knowledge. Participation in environmental activities had a positive influence on knowledge. The study also found that knowledge correlated positively with environmental attitudes, behaviours and participation [76]. An investigation/comparison of gender with attitudes towards the environment and green products was conducted by Chen and Chai [77] and the result of their investigation shows that there were no significant differences between gender in their environmental attitudes and attitudes on green products. The second part of the study investigated the relationship between attitude towards the environment and green products. Result revealed that consumer attitudes on the government’s role and their personal norm towards the environment contributed significantly to their attitude on green product. Further investigation revealed that personal norm was the most important contributor to the attitude towards green product. However, environmental protection did not contribute significantly to consumers’ attitudes on green product [77]. The media in Malaysia has played a major role in communicating ideas and information on environmental issues but quite unfortunate, at the national level, people are still reluctant to adopt certain measures to reduce their waste disposal impact on the environment [78]. Studying the effectiveness of media messages towards pro-environmental behavior of Malaysians, Besar and Hassan [78] explain the relationship between message response and people’s recycling knowledge, attitudes and recycling practice in the workplace context. The analysis inferred that both external motivational (exposure and attention) and internal motivational (involvement and interest) factors are the message response determinant variables that influence message effectiveness. They identified that one area which requires immediate public voluntary participation is in waste management, especially the 3Rs practices. The work suggests that there is poor public participation in environmentally friendly behaviors, namely recycling, as people do not response accordingly to the intended message. They noted that communication and proper enforcement of the law will help boost the recycling rates among the public. An investigation was conducted on the antecedents of recycling intention behaviour among secondary school students using Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) by Mahmud [75]. The sample consists of 400 randomly selected Form Four students. Three factors that influenced the intention behaviour as hypothesised by the author include specific attitude, subjective norms and perceived behaviour control. The result shows that perceived behaviour control was the strongest predictor of intention behaviour. Subjective norms are the second strongest predictor of intention to recycle. Specific attitudes were indirect predictor of intention behaviour, via the mediation of subjective norms and perceived behaviour control. The researcher suggested that environmental education in Malaysia school system should focus on elements that can effectively inculcate a pro-environmental behaviour among students [75]. A model to determine and analyze the factors that could affect knowledge, attitude and behavior of the urban poor concerning solid waste management was developed by Murad et aj [79]. They collected primary data residents of low-cost flats of Kuala Lumpur city, Malaysia. The empirical results of the study provide evidence to the effect that knowledge, attitude and behavior of the urban poor communities concerning solid waste management are adequate and satisfactory and the low socio-economic profile of the urban poor has not been proven as causal to environmental degradation [79]. In a review on the image and environmental disclosure, challenges in environmental information management and some of the strategic implications of environmental reporting as an important tool for improved environmental management with a short case study was presented by Sumiani et al [80]. In the case study of 50 companies in Malaysia, 36 reported some kind of environmental information in their corporate annual reports where most of the companies that gave environment report where ISO certified companies. The study concluded that ISO certification has some level of influence towards voluntary environmental reporting behaviour amongst the sampled Malaysian companies, specifically on ‘pollution abatement’ and on ‘other environmentally related information’ categories of environmental information. Making reference to Saeed et al [32], It is obvious that the Malaysia cities are still lacking in terms of efficient waste treatment technology, sufficient fund, public awareness, maintaining the established norms of industrial waste treatment, etc.

Recycling is a relatively new exercise in Malaysia. Even though recycling has been introduced years back, lack of public awareness caused a slowdown in the progress of the recycling exercise. Lack of sufficient recycling facilities or the inappropriateness of the facilities’ location contributed further to the slowdown. Over 20,000 tonnes of solid waste is being discarded daily. The Ministry of Housing and Local Government sets a recycling goal to be 22% by 2020. A study on the success of recycling exercise in Subang Jaya, Malaysia was conducted by Chenaya et al [81]. The collection rate of recyclables in Subang Jaya is estimated to be 0.43% in 2004 which shows poor recycling activities and was traced to poor awareness of the residents of the area. The study formulates and analyzes various strategies to increase the awareness among the residents and to increase the existing facilities. They employ the outranking analysis and use a new exploitation procedure based on eigenvector using the “weighted” in- and out- preference flows of each alternative from outranking relation in a PROMETHEE context [81]. It was found that environmental education should be made a part of the education and civil system.

Waste-Energy Recovery and Incineration

Municipal solid waste resource recovery is a practice where waste with good heating values are derived from the waste by mechanical or manual process and used as fuel (RDF – Refuse Derived Fuel). Solid waste resource recovery is not a common practice in Malaysia. Malaysia waste if properly sorted will create a good opportunity for resource recovery considering the percentage of paper, plastic, wood and textile materials. Promoting waste sorting from source and composting of organic waste will reduce the moisture content of Malaysia solid waste and enhancing the opportunity of resource recovery. RDF can be used as fuel to plants for electricity generation in the country, thus decreasing the greenhouse gas emission from energy utilization by changing from fossil fuels to a partly renewable fuel or incinerated to generate heat for industrial purpose. Incineration is a controlled burning of wastes at a high temperature, sterilizes, stabilizes and reduces waste volume which may be used as disposal option, when the waste composition is highly combustible. It is one of the most effective means of dealing with many wastes, to reduce their harmful potential and often to convert them to an energy form. It reduces volume up to ten-fold and thus is becoming particularly attractive in metropolitan areas. Some of the municipal managers are looking to the development of municipal incinerators around the periphery of their cities as a first solution in many countries [82]. Incineration requires appropriate technology, infrastructure, and skilled workforce to operate and maintain the plant [83]. Waste incineration is thermal treatment of waste mainly employed for hazardous waste treatment as a standard. MSW incineration in Malaysia is until now only realized as small-scale incinerators on islands, namely Langkawi, Pankor, Tioman and Labuan. The installed seven mini-incineration plants have a capacity of 5-20 tons per day and are operated only once per week due to high operation costs. For Kuala Lumpur one waste gasification plant with a capacity of 1,500 tones per day was planed but never realized because of social protests [14, 36]. The energy potentials of municipal solid waste in Malaysia was assessed by Kathirvale et al. [22] and found that The calorific value of the Malaysian MSW ranged between 1500 and 2600 kcal/kg. From their evaluation of the amount of energy t


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