October 21, 2017

The Garbage Disposal Problem

Mountains of rotting, smelling garbage, the presence of which were once not only visible by eyes, but also sensed by the nose, everywhere in the city were gone. In their places, expensive looking blue fiber glass garbage bins had taken up positions, heralding the new era of garbage collection in Yangon since about a year ago. Recently, the colours of the garbage bins had changed to bright orange, which are visible from quite a distance. Whether they are blue or orange do not matter as long as they serve their purposes, and the garbage regularly and systematically collected. Anyhow, it is a vast leap forward to keep Yangon, the gateway city to Myanmar, clean and tidy to enhance the image of our country and impress the foreign visitors.
The garbage disposal problem is not only confined to our country alone. It is a nightmare for every country in the world including the developed ones. In some countries, especially in developing countries, garbage pits or rather garbage piles, can be seen in the outlying areas of the cities. As the growing populations in big cities, mainly due to urban migrations, necessitates the expansion of the city limits, the garbage piles are now side by side with the residential areas in some neighbouring countries. The stench of the rotting garbage and the gases expelled from the incinerators are causing problems. In fact, the garbage pits that are causing controversy between the residents and the concerned authorities, are located well outside the city limits in the beginning, until encroached by the residential areas.
I’m not really sure where our garbage are dumped or how they are disposed off. However, I would like to make some general suggestions in regards to that process. The authorities should promulgate their instructions to reach the public, how to dispose their household garbages in different colored garbage bags, separating the kitchen wastes and leftover foods in one and the recyclable garbages in another. They should follow up by educating the public and also make random checks, not to take action but to see whether they understand the purpose, and to instill the procedure of garbage disposal into their minds. It may take some times as most households are reluctant to spend money on garbage bags and are accustomed to random garbage disposal. The authorities on the other hand should provide more garbage bins for the convenience of the public. At present, I had noticed garbage bins only on the main roads and none in the side roads on our block, the Kyaukmyaung Quarters. I must admit I don’t know about other places. Also, the garbage collectors should be strictly warned not to scavenge the garbage bags for recyclable items, by tearing them and leaving the smelly fluids spilled around the bins. I know this for sure as I had to take the garbage bag when I went for my morning walks, to be disposed at the garbage bin at the entrance to our side street. The stench was so strong, I had to cover my nose while approaching the bin. The soil around the bins are always sodden with those rotting fluids, making it difficult to tread on to reach them without getting the walking shoes swamped with the disgusting fluids. By placing different bins for different types of garbage, with clear markings or signs to distinguish them, and insisting the public to use the relevant bins for different types of garbage should solve the problem of scavenging for recyclable items.
The bins will also need ventilation holes near the top to release the foul odours that are trapped inside, waiting to ambush anyone who dares to open the lid to throw the garbage bag in. By having vents near the top would not affect the bins in any way, I hope. One would not be able to imagine how awful the surprise attack of the foul odour is, until one had experienced it. The presence of multitudes of germs and bacterias incubating and multiplying in and around the bins are quite inevitable. Recently, on some mornings,bI noticed a very fine layer of quick lime powder sprinkled here and there around the garbage bins in some locations. I wonder whether those actions would be effective enough to rid the germs and bacterias. As far as I know the quick lime powder is used to rid the maggots in open laterine holes, where they usually infest.
Another point, which I would like to get the attention of those concerned is the placing of the bins. In many locations they are placed at the old garbage dumps, at road junctions where small mounds were formed, thanks to the ever present hordes of rodents who burrowed the ground in the vicinity of the garbage dumps. As the grounds beneath are not level, the bins wobble whenever someone tried to open the lids. The bins are fitted with swiveled wheels, so they need to be placed on level surfaces for steadiness. The ground should be leveled and paved with concrete to provide clean and firm bases for the bins.
Garbage collection is not my field of expertise, but through observations during travels abroad, as I always had my eyes and ears open to everything new to me, I have some ideas to suggest for consideration by the departments concerned. It would be more effective by placing more garbage bins, within easy reach, instead of sending garbage collectors to collect garbage “door to door”. Such methods are rarely seen in other countries. One drawback of the “door to door” system, if I can call that, is the garbage collectors getting corrupted, due to the good will of some who want to make merits by giving tips. In the long run they would become used to getting tips and expect from every households. I do not say it will actually happen, but there is no guarantee it would not happen either. There is a saying in Myanmar, which can be literally translated as “The skies won’t fall, what if ?”
Today, in many countries they are installing incinerators to burn the garbage and at the same time producing electricity. So, why not consider installing more of those in our country to get rid of the ever increasing amount of garbage, though it would be necessary to choose incinerators that are environment friendly.
Lastly, I would like to request the public too. If we want to live in a clean and healthy environment, let’s try to be dutiful and responsible citizens by observing our civics duties. Let’s support the authorities by not littering, by not disposing garbage randomly, by not spitting and urinating recklessly in the streets.

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