Strong waste management is already a major concern of local governments in South Asia. It constitutes one of their greatest costs and as urban populations increase, the issue increases year after year.
Logistics and space
There are two factors that have a major effect on a waste management system’s expense and feasibility as it relates to collection and transportation: first, the distance traveled between collection and disposal point; and second, the degree to which wet kitchen waste can be kept separate from dry waste, all of which can be recycled. Separating waste in this way ultimately decreases manual processing costs and raises recyclable material rates.
Distances are too big in many larger towns for door-to-door users to dispose of waste directly at the dump site. Arrangements are made for disposing of waste provided by the municipality at the secondary storage points (large skips). Where these are not drained periodically, however, the waste is likely to spread outside the containers, creating a further environmental danger.
Ideally, and if suitable land can be identified, this issue can be avoided by a variety of smaller waste disposal sites scattered around a community. Through major public awareness campaigns on our part, and ongoing regular reminders to homeowners, we were able to lift the household separation rate to about 60%, but as such reminders were less frequent, the rate quickly fell down to about 25%. Across larger towns, the problem is compounded by the unavailability of separate secondary storage containers, and at this stage all is mixed up anyway, given householders’ best efforts.
To maintain levels, long-term continuous and continuing promotion is required. The cost of this needs to be weighed against the financial benefit of cleaner separate waste and decreased cost of sorting. Local authorities play a significant role in helping to encourage healthy, household-level, solid waste management activities.
Limits to composting
Our experience with home composting indicates that complete coverage is very difficult to be reached, for every household using the device. Where we have promoted it extensively and we have seen the regular usage of around 65 per cent of the bins in collaboration with the Local Authority. However, even this level of reporting may have a huge effect on the amounts of waste which need to be collected and disposed of. Around the same time it can provide major, organic inputs to home growing, providing poor householders with a more diverse and healthy diet.
The range of innovations we’ve been showcasing have various benefits and drawbacks. Maintenance is more difficult for others and clogging problems will occur. There is a need for a daily supply of fresh waste which has not already been decomposed for the dry-fermentation chambers. For other water-intensive systems, very large quantities may be needed. All these technological problems can be solved with good operating and maintenance practices, but when choosing the right technology for a given area, considerations need to be considered.
The biggest challenge for producing compost was to achieve daily sales. The compost market is seasonal, generating an erratic cash flow which has to be factored into the business model. In Bangladesh the need for the drug to be legally approved was a major obstacle. Product quality specifications are stringent to ensure farmers purchase a product they can trust.
The need for on-site testing facilities, however, could be too prescriptive, creating a obstacle to these smaller-scale operations. A second tier of license could likely be generated for waste compost which would make selling easier but with lower guarantees for farmers.
Sustainable food production
The idea of sustainable food using compost created from organic waste was very much welcomed by community people. In Sri Lanka, women have been practicing vertical gardening which has become a source of extra income for the family to meet the daily consumption needs.
In Bangladesh, female organic fertiliser entrepreneurs cultivate seasonal vegetables and fruits with compost and produce more quality goods. We offer these goods at higher prices in local and national markets, because this is still the country’s niche segment. To boost and maintain market demand, the healthy food producers need financial and regulatory support from the government and related certification and quality control agencies.
Solid waste management is a field which has not earned the attention it needs from policymakers in the nations of South Asia. This could change with its inclusion in the SDGs and in other INDCs that are the basis of the Paris Climate Agreement. To meet the challenge, we will need new collaboration strategies, and the implementation of different types of systems and technologies. This will require increased awareness and capacity building at the level of the local authority. If national climate or SDG targets are to be met, localisation through municipalities will be needed. An significant part of this would be greater exchange of expertise at the national and regional level through municipal associations, regional bodies and regional local authority associations.