Kathmandu’s waste: a problem or a resource?

By Sushila Shrestha
Apr 22, 2022

My house is in Kirtipur, whereas my office is in Baluwatar. This means that I have to travel almost one and half hours by bus every day. Like most commuters, my favorite pastime on the bus is to look outside of the window but oftentimes, my morning relish is disrupted by the sight of overwhelming heaps of garbage lying on the roads.

According to the Waste Management Baseline Survey of Nepal conducted by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) in 2020, Kathmandu waste comprises three broad categories of waste. These are organic waste, inorganic waste, and other waste. Organic waste mainly consists of paper, textile, and agricultural waste; whereas inorganic waste comprises of plastic, glass, rubbers, metals and minerals.

Every day, the Kathmandu Valley generates around 1200 metric tonnes of solid waste. Such waste is first collected at the Teku transfer station from various municipal collection services. And from the station, the waste is dispatched to Sisdole- a landfill that is already filled beyond its capacity. Waste that is not collected by the municipal services is dumped openly in the street, burned, or disposed of by the riverbanks.

So, is waste a problem in Kathmandu?

Improper waste management practices in Kathmandu have resulted in various environmental issues, caused fatal accidents, infrastructure damage, pollution of the local environment, off-gassing of methane generated by decaying organic wastes, and proliferation of disease vectors such as rats and flies. Hence, it is no doubt that solid waste is indeed a problem in Kathmandu.

Can this waste be used as a resource?

The waste composition analysis done by the Asian Development Bank indicates that the highest waste fraction is of organic matter (66%), followed by plastics (12%), paper and paper products (9%), others (5%), and glass (3%). Metal, textiles, rubber and leather each account for 2% or less.

The high amount of the organic waste composition indicates that if segregated properly, most of the waste i.e., organic waste can be composted. This would reduce the waste management problem by half.

Similarly, there is a market for most recyclable materials like plastics, metals, and glasses because of the demand created by the formal and informal waste management sectors. Hence, these materials, if segregated and recycled properly, can be immensely helpful to turn the waste into a resource.

Ultimately, in the future, our strategies and approach to waste will decide if the waste is regarded as a problem or as a valuable resource.

Join Our Newsletter

It’s so wonderful you’ll be joining our community!