Buy Back System to manage waste

The burgeoning garbage problem needs both immediate and long term solutions

29 September, 2009 – In an effort to curb the mounting garbage problem and complement the segregation of solid waste at source, an introduction of a “buy back system” (BBS) for manufacturers and dealers of local products will be proposed to the government.

The system prepared by an international consultancy, RC consultancy for the royal cociety for the protection of nature (RSPN), proposes that manufacturers and dealers buy back the packaging of goods they produce or sell like empty bottles, cans and plastics. Four materials were identified that qualify for the proposed BBS: printer cartridges, beer/cold drinks/wine bottles, tins, cans, and PET bottles. They have also identified three high waste generating products – plastic, fruit juice containers, mineral water bottles and plastic carry bags.

Today, most of this non-degradable solid waste ends up in the country’s landfills, posing not only a serious risk to the environment but human health as well.

In order to prevent such waste from reaching and polluting the environment, the report suggests, providing collection points throughout the city, for instance, one for every 20 households, from which local scrap dealers will be able to easily collect recyclable waste.

The waste would then be transported back to selected buyers (manufacturers and dealers), who would then transport them to recycling plants. But since Bhutan currently does not have any major recycling facilities, the waste would have to be transported across the border to India, from which the recycled products could then be imported back by businesses.

To facilitate the success of the such a system, the reports encourages concerned institutions, like the department of urban development and engineering services, Thimphu city corporation (TCC), royal society for the protection of nature, national environment commission secretariat (NECS) and the department of trade, to work in collaboration.

The report also says that the department of trade in close cooperation with TCC and NECS should take the lead in making the system happen and work.

“These agencies should firstly educate the public on waste segregation through the use of the mass media,” the report says. “But such an awareness program needs to be persistent and long term.” Thematic cartoons are suggested to reach out to the younger generation and the illiterate. The report also points out that scrap dealers and interested businesses willing to use BBS should be provided with government subsidies to encourage the growth of an independent private sector system. The need for a clear policy on BBS and strict and vigilant enforcement, with fines for those not following the segregation waste system, are also encouraged.

The report identifies local businesses and scrap dealers interested in using the system once it is functional. But it also says that the main concern of these parties is more government support to ensure success.

“With about 50 metric tonnes (MT) of non degradable waste generated a day in Thimphu alone, sustainability of waste disposal is virtually getting impossible,” warns the report on the urgency of introducing such a system as soon as possible.

This proposal is to be submitted to the cabinet for approval.