Yangon struggles to stem tide of trash

The Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) collects more than 2300 tonnes of waste a day from the business capital’s 5 million people, and the ever-increasing population of Yangon demands innovative and sustainable ways of handling its refuse.

YCDC officials said they can only handle around 2000 tonnes of waste a day, which is disposed at Htein Pin dump near Hlaing Tharyar township and Dawei Gyaung dump in North Dagon township.

Around 300 tonnes of waste ends up being dumped improperly daily.

With the increasing volume of waste and limited space, YCDC officials acknowledged there would be no place for new disposal sites in Yangon if the trend continues in the next five years.

Of its total area of nearly 150 acres, around 95 acres in Htein Pin receive about 1200 tonnes of garbage daily, while the 100 acres of the 150-acre Dawei Gyaung takes 1100 tonnes daily.

City trash collection ranges from street sweepers to bins for separating trash from recyclable material, but most of it will end up at the two dumps, which are getting filled to the brim.

This clearly shows a lack of an efficient system for recycling, which would significantly reduce the amount of waste produced every day, making waste management more manageable.

Of the total volume of waste produced in Yangon, 61 percent is from household kitchens, while shops and restaurants produce 35pc of the total. Medical waste constitutes 0.1pc and other garbage, 3pc.

“To reduce the amount of waste, we plan to cooperate with volunteer groups. We will find ways to significantly reduce garbage,” said Daw Than Myint Aung, a member of the YCDC.

Creating additional dumps is a good option, but as potential new disposal sites are far from houses and wards, the cost for transporting the waste would increase significantly, said U Zaw Win Naing, assistant head of the committee.

The YCDC has sought better ways to reduce the volume of waste ending up in dumps by recycling.

Reflecting on the experience of Japan and South Korea in recycling, U Aung Myint Maw said the government is trying to increase the number of recycled waste, which currently accounts for only 10pc of the total.

In Japan and South Korea, only half of the total waste is sent to the disposal sites, the other 50pc is recycled.

Despite initial efforts to separate litter thrown into bins in public places into recyclable and non-reusable, the full implementation of this remains a challenge, as households often mix up all types of waste.

While different options are under consideration by the regional government, the YCDC is launching an initiative next year to create a market for recyclable materials and set up a site for such products with large volume, said U Aung Myint Maw.

“If they can still be used, we’ll buy it. Then we will sell it at much lower price to the public. We’ll start this next year,” he said.

However, Daw Sandar Min, chair of regional parliament’s financial, planning, and economic committee, has criticised the government for not effectively handling the waste.

“I think this is not going to work. They are only thinking to sell the waste. I wonder who else wants to buy recycled waste,” she said, adding that the government should think about producing electricity from the waste. She urged the municipal authority to abandon the idea of disposing tonnes of waste at dumps.

Turning waste into electricity is an ongoing initiative of the government in cooperation with the Japanese Future Engineering Company.

The Yangon government is running pilot projects near Shwe Pyi Thar township to produce electricity from trash using the Fukuoka method, according to U Aung Myint Maw. This is a waste management system that transforms methane into carbon dioxide, significantly reducing the harmful effects of methane on global warming by 21 times. The project will be completed by 2020.

The YCDC said it is also considering sanitary landfill systems for waste management, which would prevent pollution of underground water by keeping effluvium from leaking.

It also has intensified awareness campaigns among Yangon residents in cooperation with civil society groups, said U Zaw Win Naing.

“No matter how many dustbins we put out, we often find that little rubbish is thrown into the bins, and more is scattered outside the bins,” he said.

Source : Myanmar Times

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