Despite densely population in the small country, there is no effective waste management solution here which is concerning matter for the country’s environment and health sectors.
People unaware of using single use plastic products. They hurl those here and there, and log drain, canal, and pond during rainy season. Even, industrial wastages are also plunged into waterways or landfills.
Bangladesh is flourishing economically thanks to demographic dividend and policy support. The country will attain Least Developed Countries (LDCs) by 2026, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, and development country’s status by 2041.
Even though, the country has to attain a multiple goals in future. But, the waste management system gets less important which is required for the sake of future generation. It is also crucial for sustainable economic development.
In 2002, Bangladesh banned polythene bags to stop plastic pollution. Despite the ban, polythene bags are now readily available across the country. Plastic use was increasing rapidly, as was pollution in the country, World Bank Group report says.
It also mentioned that Bangladesh was the world’s first country to ban plastic shopping bags. But, after some time, plastic use and mismanagement increased again.
We don’t understand that why the government is reluctant to implement the regular to protect environment.
So, the authorities concerned should lay emphasis on the waste management issue. In this context, there is no alternative ways to use modern tech uses, create awareness among people to turn waste turn into valuable resources.
Modern waste management solution can protect environment, health and our save money as well.
In our country, waste management is generally understood as stacking waste in a designated open space (garbage bin); But this is not a solution to waste management. In most cases, they are burned directly to reduce the amount of waste in landfills. It emits a lot of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, etc.).
That is, the risk of environmental pollution is increasing day by day due to the unplanned use of landfills in our current waste disposal management.
Due to a lack of regular and proper management, these piles are causing inconvenience to pedestrians by spreading stench from these piles, as well as causing environmental imbalance. Methane gas and leachate (liquid extracted from garbage) generated from these garbage heaps easily pollute the environment as well as attract various pathogens-carrying insects, which pose a threat to human health. Apart from this, people suffer from serious diseases such as stomach pain, skin disease, diarrhea, hepatitis, bronchitis, breathing problems, ulcers, gastric, and even liver and kidney damage due to waste pollution.
As a result of global warming, Bangladesh's environment and biodiversity are already under threat. If the planned waste management is not ensured, more disasters will befall the country's environment and biodiversity.
Hazards of waste mismanagement
According to a recent World Bank report, about one lakh people die every year due to environmental pollution in Bangladesh. Among them, 18,000 people have died in the capital alone.
Due to the lack of proper disposal of solid and liquid waste, at least 5.2 million people die worldwide, including 4 million children.
A study, titled "Urban Waste Management in Bangladesh: An Overview with a Focus on Dhaka", published in October 2021, observed the situation over the last three decades and said that an average of 55% of solid waste in urban areas remains uncollected.
At least 37 per cent of our total garbage is generated in the capital Dhaka and 21 per cent in Chittagong, the rest is generated across the country. A recent study revealed that solid waste management is a grave concern for Bangladesh as by 2025 waste generation per capita will be 0.75 kg/capita/day and the total amount of waste will reach 21.07 million tons per year.
To address this problem, we can initiate a categorization process for waste, streamlining collection efforts into distinct categories: municipal, commercial, and industrial waste streams.
Also, where the final destination of waste is primarily a landfill, the classification can be either biodegradable or non-biodegradable. In cities where waste is incinerated, the categories are combustible, non-combustible, recyclable, plastic, old clothes, newspapers, glass bottles, metal objects, extra-large waste, electronics, etc. A clear understanding of the structural and chemical properties of waste is essential for waste management.
In the big cities of the country including Dhaka, the garbage collected from the houses is usually done by the city corporation workers. They do not have any training or health protection in this garbage collection. What is sadder is that our citizens do not have any discretion in disposing of their daily garbage. Decomposable and non-compostable wastes are thrown together, so they have to be segregated or not at all. A garbage bag is burnt which is not environmentally friendly at all.
In developed countries of the world, household waste should be disposed of in three separate bins. Plastic and paper waste should be disposed of in the blue bin, recyclable waste in the green bin and the remaining waste in the black bin.
Thus, if we also follow this rule in our country, waste management becomes much easier. Because we have only 10,000 manpower and 473 waste management vehicles in the two city corporations of Dhaka city which is inadequate for our big city and population. Therefore, without the awareness of the citizens, this huge work is not possible at all.
So much for the city, the situation in the villages of Bangladesh is not good now. A study on waste generation in rural areas showed that the average daily per capita waste generation in villages is 0.38 kg. As such, the daily total waste production in the village is 37 thousand 84.46 tons. 87 per cent of this waste is biodegradable and the remaining 13 per cent is other waste.
In a survey conducted by the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) under the 'Amar Gram Amar Shahar' technical assistance project, the country's rural markets generate around 4,290 tons of waste every day. The market generates 56.77 per cent to 60 per cent of biodegradable waste, 36.62 to 37.53 per cent of non-biodegradable waste, and 2.81 to 4.49 per cent of medical or hazardous waste.
Only 1.43 per cent of houses in the village do not have latrines. The remaining 98.57 per cent of households do not defecate in the open, but due to a lack of proper sewage management, most of the waste accumulates in water bodies or in the open. The survey also revealed that more than 75 per cent of the waste generated in Hatbazar (local market) is organic waste. 10,000 tons of methane gas is being mixed into the atmosphere every day from the waste of markets and markets in cities and villages. As a result, the temperature of the atmosphere is increasing.
Realizing the urgency of combatting plastic pollution in a structured way, the government has drawn up a National Action Plan for Sustainable Plastic Management based on the 3R approach of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. This is focused on the circular economic model and has set specific goals to reduce plastic waste. Some of the goals include recycling 50 per cent of plastics by 2025, phasing out single-use plastic by 90 per cent by 2026, and 2030, reducing plastic waste generation by 30 per cent based on the 2020-21 baseline.
But there is hope that Bangladesh has already started the construction of experimental roads with waste plastic like India, and LGED. LGED constructed the road a year ago for the first time by mixing non-recyclable thin polyethylene with bitumen to make the road durable. Waste polyethylene which has no recycling value costs TK 27 per kg from landfill to utilization. As a result, the cost of construction of this type of road will be reduced, LGED officials said.
However, waste management treatment plants have already been set up to produce renewable energy and compost fertilizer from the waste. It is great potential to turn waste into resources with the combined efforts of all and innovative technologies.
Two common sayings about waste are - today's waste is tomorrow's wealth and garbage is cash. In developed countries such as Sweden and Norway, waste is being processed and converted into usable and profitable alternatives. That is why they are also importing waste from other countries.
We need to make everyone aware including children through mass media about waste management. The government alone cannot manage plastic waste. As a significant contributor to this menace, the private sector needs to come forward to claim ownership of the consequences of their actions and take effective and immediate measures to support the nation in this fight.
The writer is a freelance journalist. She can be contacted through [email protected]