August 19, 2016

Solving the Garbage Disposal Problems

I had contributed an article on the garbage disposal problems that was published in the GNLM daily. That article was written at the time when the orange coloured garbage bins started appearing on the main roads of our township, as well as in others around the city. I had pointed out the stench they were emitting and the rodents burrowing beneath them. I emphasized that people, including me, were reluctant to open the lids to dispose our garbage bags because of the stench they produced on opening.
It had been nearly a year since. However, no visible improvement is seen today. Instead, I must say, the conditions are getting worse. As the bins are not thoroughly cleaned, the handles on the lids are so filthy that people don’t want to open them. Thus they left their garbage bags lying outside the bins for the dogs and rodents to scavenge them. They are becoming not only eye sores, but nuisances.
Here, I would like to describe how the city of Taipei managed their garbage disposals. I haven’t been to Taipei, but what I’m going to describe was based on a documentary video, aired on Channel News Asia ( CNA) of Singapore. Where cleanliness and orderliness are concerned, those who had been to Singapore are full of praise for that country. However, in the video documentary, the Singaporean TV presenter was greatly impressed by the garbage management system of Taipei.
The scene started with the TV presenter looking for a garbage bin or a litter box to throw an empty paper cup. He couldn’t find one. However, he noticed that, although there was no sign of any garbage bin or litter box in the neighbourhood, the streets were spotlessly clean and tidy. That aroused his curiosity as to how they did that. He asked a passerby, where he could dispose his empty cup. When he learned that there are litter boxes and dust bins inside the public places only, he was again curious where the household garbages are disposed. He was told that a garbage truck comes to each residential block at 7 pm every night and parks at the designated place.
The presenter went to a residential area and waited at a place, where some men and women were queuing with garbage bags in their hands. At 7 pm sharp, a garbage truck arrived. The workers placed three empty bins on the sidewalk. The bins were of three different colors that matched the colors of the garbage bags brought by the residents. Then one by one, the people in the queue handed the bags to the workers, who put them into the relevant bins. When a bin was full, it was tightly lidded and loaded onto the truck. Then another empty bin was placed on the sidewalk. Within a few minutes, all the bags were collected and the garbage truck left. The TV presenter went along, standing on the rear footboard of the garbage truck, with the workers.
The first stop was at a pig farm of their department. There they unloaded the kitchen wastes and leftover foods. The garbages were dumped into a very large food blender of unimaginable size. They were blended and de-germed, before releasing the liquified food into the drains that led to the troughs in the pigsty. The swines immediately fed on them heartily. The second stop was at the recycling plant where the recyclable garbages were unloaded. Then they proceeded to the city outskirts where an incinerator was situated. There the last of the garbages that had to be destroyed were unloaded. The presenter explained, that place also produce electricity utilizing the garbage as fuel to fire the steam boilers that run the turbine generators.
That is the most unique garbage management system, but that wouldn’t be applicable in our country at the present. The garbages are the sources of health hazards and causes of flooding, in Yangon. They are very problematic and need to be addressed urgently. A wild thought came to my mind while writing this article; “While Taipei is making the garbage bins invisible, why are we intentionally making them more visible by placing them on the crowded main roads?”
Another good example of garbage disposal management is that of Thailand. About six years back, I happened to be traveling in Isann, the North East region of Thailand, where my son’s worksite was located. I noticed young boys and girls in school uniforms, carrying garbage bags on their way to school. It was a peculiar sight. When I asked my son, he explained that they are taking the garbage to barter with chicken eggs. He went on to explain that at the schools, the garbage bags were weighed to determine how many chicken eggs they are worth. The children were then rewarded with the chicken eggs. I was quite impressed by their innovations.
While I was writing this article, I was wondering whether that practice is successful and still going on. So I phoned my son and asked him. He replied that it is still going on and that practice had even spread to some other towns and villages. I asked him whether he knew how they managed those projects. Fortunately, my son happened to be a classmate of a Thai professor at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) who had been researching ways and means to conserve the environments. My son asked the professor some salient questions that I wanted to know.
The feedback from my son was very interesting. I will try and explain it briefly. The garbage collection campaigns by giving incentives to the public are carried out by the township and village administrations with their own initiatives. Meaning: they are not carried out by orders or directives from higher up. Thus they vary from one place to another. Some places issue bank saving books to the public who brought in the garbages. After weighing the garbage they kept the records of the garbage brought in by each individuals. At the end of each month the amount of money each individual had earned are deposited into their saving books. As for the schools, they are still using chicken eggs to barter with the garbages.
The garbages thus collected are sorted to separate the recyclables, the leftovers and those to be burned. These garbages are the sources of incomes used to hand out or barter with the garbages brought in. The recyclables are sold to the recyclers. Kitchen wastes that contained fruits and vegetables can be processed to produce Effective Microorganisms and compost fertilizers. The Effective Microorganisms, commonly called EM, are used for enviromental applications such as: in waste water treatment plants, in septic tanks and to reduce environmental pollutions. They are also useful in the sustainable agricultural practices. The garbages to be destroyed are sent to the incinerators. Nothing is wasted, while helping to generate money to keep the campaigns on track, they kept the environments clean. I think that it is the most viable garbage disposal method.
In my opinion, the Thai example would be more suitable and applicable to our country. As the general organization or the setup of our respective administrations are not the same as those of their counterparts in Thailand, they may not be able to perform those tasks. Thus, I would like to suggest our youths, who are interested in community services, to rise up to the occasion and take that responsibility. They should form NGOs to carry out those tasks. Also as the situations are not the same as those of Thailand, there may be some difficulties to generate enough money from the garbage, in the beginning. Thus, I would like to request the philanthropists to finance them. As we Myanmars are generous people, I am sure the financing of such projects wouldn’t be an issue. However, it would be more appropriate if the administrative bodies could take the responsibilities.
The general public should be educated not to litter and to dispose the garbage properly. Although the authorities had introduced the different colored bags to differentiate the types of garbage, the public do not seem to understand what their purposes are. It is because the garbage collection system does not have proper arrangements to separate the different types of garbage. For instance, as I had suggested in my previous article, they should have different colored bins for different types of garbage. Also, most people don’t want to waste money on those specific kind of bags. Only a few percentage of the public are using them. They should be made more aware of the importance of maintaining a clean environment. In doing so, the televisions are the best mediums. The last resort is to apply the carrot and stick policy to enforce it. This would benefit our wellbeing by improving the cleanliness of our city and enhance the image of our country too.


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