Well attended seminar on Waste Management
A snowy winter morning on November 28, a seminar on waste management was jointly organised by SBBC and the Bangladesh Embassy in Stockholm. More than 50 participants were present on-line and at the embassy. The Chairman of SBBC Ms Nathalie Tranefeldt opened the seminar and H.E. Mr. Mehdi Hasan, Ambassador of Bangladesh to Sweden welcomed all, from ministries, municipalities, corporations and experts both in Bangladesh and Sweden. As Sweden has a long experience and expertise in the field of waste and Bangladesh has taken on the challenge to improve the handling of waste in the country significantly, he stressed that this will not only improve the environment but also social benefits and health in the community. He expressed his hope that the seminar would foster meaningful discussions, co-operation and perhaps new solutions for the waste management.
The first speaker, Mr Mohammad Nora Alam Siddique from Bangladesh Ministry of Local Government, showed an impressive set of facts and figures on waste in Bangladesh. The country has taken on a new path towards high goals when it comes to waste management. To introduce a more scientific and environmentally safe approach to waste is an important part of the 8th Five Year Plan (2020-2025), but today, most of the waste goes to landfill, which is not a sustainable solution. Horrifying 17 040 metric tonnes of waste is generated daily in Bangladesh. The waste has steadily increased during the past 20 years and will continue to rise. Urban garbage consists mainly of food and vegetable waste (82,92 per cent) followed by plastics (9,46 per cent), paper products, coconut shells, glass, clay pots, diapers and textile, etc. Most of it goes to landfill.
A set of activities and methods have been listed to improve the handling of municipal waste, such as better transportation, street sweeping, drain cleaning and separation of medical waste, but important are also to develop alternatives to landfill such as incineration plants, turning waste into energy. Illegal dumping must be hampered, although it is a big challenge to find suitable sites for waste handling and disposal. Mr Siddique showed an impressive and straightforward mapping, including a long list of methods, challenges and gaps in institutional arrangements.
Former managing director of Avfall Sverige (the company responsible for collecting consumer waste in all municipalities in Sweden), Mr Weine Wiqvist outlined how the Swedish work has developed over the years. Today, the most important approach is to minimise waste according to the so-called waste hierarchy, where measures to prevent waste is on top, followed by re-use, re-cycling, incineration (for heat and energy) and landfill at the bottom. Landfill is banned in Sweden since 2010.
So, what to do with all the waste? New techniques for biological treatment, anaerobic digestion, composting, material re-cycling and incineration/energy recovery are being developed. The key is, according to Mr Wiqvist, separation of the waste by source. The consumers and the companies must learn how to sort the garbage, so that the material can be collected and re-cycled from clean waste streams. In Sweden, EPR-systems (extended producer responsibility) are in place for packaging materials such as plastic, paper, metal and glass.
Design is essential to make the recovery of materials more efficient, and of course to sort out hazardous waste. Tyres and batteries are also collected separately in Sweden in order to re-gain materials. Food waste is collected and turned into bio-gas or fertilizers in most municipalities. Sweden is one of few countries who has a deposit fee system. A fee is added on the product when it is sold, and consumers get the money back when they return aluminium cans and PET-bottles. This has proved to be very efficient.
There are several institutions in Sweden that have helped to develop the waste handling. IVL is Sweden´s leading organisation for applied environmental and sustainability research, with 460 employees in Sweden, China and India. According to Ms Gina Aspelin Hedbring, IVL’s focus is on circular economy, using waste as a resource. Therefore, it is important to improve the properties of materials, like bio-degradable plastics, and to develop new technical or chemical methods for recycling of textiles. In China, IVL is managing a pilot on bio-gas production from sludge from a waste-water treatment plant and food waste. The biogas will be used in an industrial production plant. In Sweden the first commercial automatic textile sorting is up and running, which will improve the recycling rate for textiles. More EU-legislation will come, for example EPR on textile waste.
Ms Ana-Karin Municio from Sweco, a leading architecture and engineering consultancy with 20 000 employees, demonstrated some of the waste handling projects that Sweco is involved in. Sweco supports the projects by making studies, plans, setting goals, choosing techniques for minimizing, collecting, handling and treatment of waste. She told about the project “Towards Zero Waste and Solid Waste Management in Central Asia” and emphasized that it is not only about technique, but also capacity building and that most important and challenging is that people must change their behaviour. She also pointed out that there are many upsides and win-win-situations, for example it is cheaper to use bio-fertilizer from waste than to import expensive fertilizers for the agricultural sector.
The Swedish 120 years old trading company Elof Hansson is another company who are involved in international infrastructure projects, including many waste handling projects which Jessica Magnusson told the audience about. One is the design contract for the largest Polish Waste-to-Energy plant in Warsaw, an incineration plant that can annually process 305 000 tonnes of waste into 148 000 MWh of electricity or combined heating and power, 101 000 MWh of electricity and 195 000 MWh of thermal energy. The company is also involved in “Towards Zero Waste” mentioned above and in waste management projects in many other countries. She also pointed out that beside all positive environmental positive effects, waste management creates many jobs.
Many good remarks and comments followed from other participants who had listened in to the seminar. Bidhan Chandra Pol, founder and managing director of Probha Aurora, a climate-sensitive youth-focused social enterprise in Bangladesh, participated on-line from London. Having visited Sweden recently, he said he hoped Bangladesh could find a scope to work with Sweden. Gopal Krishna Deprath suggested a gap analysis between Sweden and Bangladesh regarding waste management. He also pointed out that the high moisture in Bangladesh waste had to be dealt with to be able to recover energy from waste through incineration and that source separation is also key. Everyone agreed that the waste management in Bangladesh include many challenges, not the least to change the behaviour. As one participant from Khulna City Corporation said, our city people will do as they always do, throw waste in the nearest drain. We need a Master Plan.
But as Ambassador Mehdi Hasan said in his final remark; it requires focus on challenges and participation of all stakeholders. To make synergies between administration, industry and communities are important to achieve success.
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