I was in my final year in my undergraduate when my supervisor asked me to conduct an academic research on waste management. It took me a month to carry out the research on the waste management system in Nepal where I visited the transfer station in Teku and the landfill site in Nuwakot. After personally meeting the waste workers, I understood that there were plenty of gaps in the waste management system in Nepal.
This followed a year of academic research on waste which drastically changed my life. I went from hating waste to understanding, loving and valuing it. Looking at the past success and failure waste project records in Nepal, I realized that we didn’t need big-budget projects and technological development to manage waste in Nepal. The only solution that I found after reviewing the rules, regulations, policies and past practices for managing waste in Nepal was the need to segregate waste at the source. However, managing and segregating waste at the source is not an easy task.
The Solid Waste Management Act 2011, Article 6 mentions that waste needs to be segregated at the source but there aren’t any monitoring units to inspect if the rule is strictly followed. People often complain that even though they follow the rules and segregate waste at the source, the bio-degradable and non-degradable waste are not separately collected.
When segregated waste is loaded in a single van, the waste needs to be segregated at the collection center. However, there are few companies such as NEPCEMAC in Swoyambhu and Maharajgunj, and government bodies such as Bhaktapur municipality successfully practicing segregation at source and have successfully segregated and managed waste.
Waste won't be waste anymore if we change our behavior towards it and strive to reduce, reuse and recycle these valuable resources. Many plastics can be reused and PET bottles can be baled and recycled into useful products. Similarly, unwanted clothes can be recycled and re-design into a new useful product, and degradable waste can be used to make compost for urban gardens.
Entrepreneurial solutions to waste not only address waste but also saves time, effort, and resources to recreate that product. It ultimately promotes the economic development of the country. Despite wise production and consumption of products such as producing less or zero use of plastic and consuming less packaged food, supporting start-ups that promote environment-friendly products will ultimately solve the waste management problems in Nepal.
If we change our perception of waste and understand the value of these discarded products, the waste system in our country can be properly managed. Let us hope we develop a better understanding of waste in our society and much of the useful waste will cease to exist.
The author is associated with CREASION and leads the Climate Smart Entrepreneurship – key component of Nepali Yuwa in Climate Action and Growth project funded by European Union.