Tag Archives: solid waste management

Cash for Trash-an idea for a Bank

waste management. image from wikipedia

Customers, in a poor corner of eastern Indonesia, borrow cash — and pay back trash.
“The program originated from the people, it is managed by the people, and the rewards are for the people,” said bank manager Suryana, who wears a black jilbab headscarf and lives with her family above the Mutiara Trash Bank in the fast-growing city of Makassar on the island of Sulawesi. “From an economic point of view, this gets results.”… Not just neighborhoods in Indonesia, but elsewhere across emerging Asia and Africa, locales are embracing “trash banking” as a way of reducing pressure on ever-growing landfill sites and allowing some of their poorest citizens access to savings and credit.
The scale of the problem facing Makassar and other Asian cities is clear from a trip to the landfill on the edge of town. Each day the city of 2.5 million people produces 800 tons of rubbish, most of which ends up at the five-story high tip, which sprawls over the area the size of two soccer pitches. Scavengers, many of them children, work alongside cows foraging for food.
A garbage disposal area in Makassar, Indonesia’s South Sulawesi province
Against this backdrop, trash banking is taking off. Residents bring recyclable trash such as plastic bottles, paper and packaging to the collection points, known as banks, where the rubbish is weighed and given a monetary value. Like a regular bank, customers are able to open accounts, make deposits — of trash, converted to its rupiah value — and periodically withdraw funds.
The city government commits to purchasing the rubbish at set prices displayed at the bank, ensuring price stability for those bringing trash in. It then sells it on to waste merchants who ship it to plastic and paper mills on the main island of Java….The city administration sends trucks to collect the waste from the Mutiara Trash Bank several times a week and brings it to a Central Trash Bank, where it is sorted for sale…

Indonesia produces 64 million tons of trash a year, of which 70 percent is dumped in open …Indonesia as a whole last year had 2,800 trash banks operating in 129 cities, with 175,000 account holders, according to the environment ministry….[IO]ther similar practices are carried out in African countries including Ghana and South Africa, in India’s cities of Pune and Bengaluru, and in Manila, Bogota and Brazil.

Excerpts from This Asian Bank Lets You Borrow Cash and Pay in Trash, Bloomberg News
May 15, 2016

Reducing Rubbish: Incinerators in China

waste to energy plant in Shenzhen China built by Keppel Seghers.  Image from http://www.keppelseghers.com/

As China urbanises, its cities are producing a lot more rubbish. They are running out of good places for landfills and are turning instead to burning rubbish, generating electricity at “waste-to-energy” plants.. About 70 such incinerators are now being built, in addition to more than 180 in operation. Cities increased their capacity to incinerate waste tenfold in the decade to 2013, allowing the country to burn more than a quarter of its formally collected urban rubbish. Techsci Research, a consultancy, expects the market for incinerators in China roughly to double in size by 2018, much faster than the pace worldwide.

Cities in Japan and several European countries burn a higher proportion of their rubbish and recycle a lot of the rest (although only Japan ranks ahead of China in tonnes burned per day). Most rubbish in China ends up either in landfills or in unregulated heaps outside cities, where it gives off methane as it decomposes. There is a lot of informal recycling: people pick through rubbish at dumps looking for items such as plastic bottles that can be sold to recycling factories. But the heaps contaminate the soil and groundwater. Plastics flow down rivers into the sea, harming ocean life. A recent study concluded that China was by far the biggest source of plastics in the oceans… Building [incinerators] will require the government to do more to earn the trust of a public that is rightly suspicious of official pledges to protect the environment. Some older incinerators have not burned as cleanly as promised, belching foul-smelling smoke from their furnaces.

The latest generation of incinerators in China may help to overcome public scepticism. Shanghai is the city producing the most household rubbish in the country: 22,000 tonnes a day. Space for new landfills is becoming scarce as existing ones reach capacity, including China’s largest, Laogang, on the coast near the city. Each day about a seventh of the city’s rubbish glides past that landfill by barge to be dumped into two large pits at an incinerator next door. In odourless rooms overlooking each pit, workers use joysticks to manipulate gigantic German-made steel claws a bit like the ones in fairground games used to retrieve sweets and toys. The claws descend and close their jaws, grabbing seven or eight tonnes at each go. The workers then move them up towards the pit’s high ceiling and drop the waste into furnaces built with technology from Germany, Japan and elsewhere.

The waste burns at temperatures of 850°C or higher, hot enough to eliminate toxic dioxin pollutants. The gases heat water to produce steam, in turn driving turbines that generate electricity. On a recent visit to the site, there was no detectable odour outside. Digital displays monitored emission levels of sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and other pollutants. Zhang Yi, a senior manager at SMI Environment, a local state-owned enterprise that runs the Laogang furnaces, says its facilities were built to “the strictest standard” in the world. A high proportion of imported technology and a need for careful operation make SMI’s incinerators expensive to build and operate, Mr Zhang says. State-owned companies, he insists, have a special responsibility to the public.

Normally this sort of claim makes Chinese citizens scoff. Many of the factories and mills that have polluted rivers or made skies smoggy are state-owned…Environmental-impact assessments must be done, but these are paid for by the people who are building and approving the projects. Favourable assessments lead to more work and unfavourable ones to less. Neighbours of a planned project are often consulted in a desultory way, despite legal requirements for notices and hearings. The more controversial a project is, the less likely that rules about public consultation will be obeyed, and the more likely that nastier tactics, including hired thugs, will be relied upon to silence critics.

The Laogang incinerator is one of several that burn 3,000 tonnes of rubbish a day, including one in Beijing; the one in Hangzhou will be another. A planned new burner, to be completed in 2017, would make the Laogang facility the largest in the world, burning 9,000 tonnes a day. The goal by then is to increase the share of Shanghai’s household waste that is incinerated from about a third to three-quarters.

Nationally, China’s planners had wanted 35% of urban household waste to be incinerated by the end of 2015…[But]Incinerators are insatiable beasts and must keep being fed rubbish for decades to be economical. The more of them there are, the less incentive there is to recycle, and to produce less rubbish in the first place. But at present, as China’s waste problem keeps growing, the country most certainly needs to keep on burning.

Waste disposal: Keep the fires burning, Economist, Apr. 25, 2015, at 42

Scavengers or Waste Pickers? waste in the developing world

Scavenger, Image from wiipedia

New UN guidelines published in 2013 have formalised the work of scavengers, Scavengers collect between half and all the rubbish in developing countries.  Their activities cut costs to cities, help the environment and reduce poverty….Schemes are afoot in the Philippines and Nepal. In March Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, became the latest metropolis to start compensating its 15,000 waste pickers for their services, paying 82,860 pesos ($44) per tonne of garbage collected.  Brazil made scavenging an official occupation more than a decade ago. Its 1m catadores have raised recycling rates for cardboard and paper to 90%. Co-operatives get grants to buy equipment and can short-circuit the municipal-tendering process. In Belo Horizonte, in Brazil’s south-east, workers transform beer cans and other junk into intricate jewellery for the city’s fashion-conscious. Their motto is “your trash is our luxury”. Catadores there can make 1,700 reais ($800) a month from recycling and craft-making, well above the 678 reais minimum wage.

The scavengers face stiff competition from private firms who use more sophisticated technology to make money from waste. Official disdain remains a problem, too. Corruption in municipal-waste projects rewards the highest bribe, not the best bidder. Humble and often illiterate workers struggle to prove their social, environmental and financial advantages.

Sonia Dias, a rubbish expert from WIEGO, a non-profit global network based at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, says better links between the scavengers’ co-operatives are needed. Informal workers were “largely invisible ten years ago” she says. Now they are talking at international meetings. The Global Alliance of Waste Pickers, which unites co-operatives in Asia, Latin America and Africa, sends representatives to shindigs such as the Rio+20 summit last year.

Excerpts, Money from rubbish:Mucking in, Economist,  Nov. 2, 2013, at 65