46_Waste Concern

Waste Not

The capital of Bangladesh has a serious problem with solid-waste disposal. Waste Concern runs neighborhood plants that convert garbage into compost, improving public health and creating jobs.


A. H. Md. Maqsood Sinha and Iftekhar Enayetullah
Cofounders, Waste Concern
Dhaka, Bangladesh


What needed an overhaul?
Dhaka City, with some 10 million inhabitants, is experiencing particularly serious difficulties in dealing with ever increasing waste disposition burdens. The amount of solid waste generated every day stands at around 3500 metric tons daily, far exceeding the coping capacity of municipal authorities. As a result a significant portion (52% of the total generated solid waste) of the garbage is remaining uncollected and poses grave public health and environmental hazards. Due to increasing unemployment and lack of job opportunities, a large group of urban poor of Dhaka City are gradually becoming involved with the recovery of inorganic recyclable materials from waste with economic value, for their survival. It is estimated by a study that 55% of Dhaka lives below the poverty line. Although, This poor labor force plays an important role in reducing waste (15% of the total solid waste generated) to be managed by Dhaka City Corporation, their contribution remains largely unrecognized. Ironically a large portion of organic matter (almost 80% of the waste) with the potentials of converting it into economic resource (compost/ organic fertilizer) remains totally unutilized by these poor people. On the one hand conventionally, waste is being considered as a problem by the local authorities and on the other hand poor for their survival strategy are considering, waste as resource. Instead of considering waste as a problem since 1995, Waste Concern has been trying to promote the concept of 4 R’s principal (where reduction, reuse, recycling and recovery of waste) in every step of waste management in Bangladesh.

What was the single biggest obstacle?
The single biggest obstacle for the model of community based decentralized compositing project was availability of land in the city for such facilities. Initially public-private-community partnership and the concept of 4 R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle and recovery of waste) in solid waste management related activities & policies was also absent in Bangladesh before our intervention.

How did you overcome it?
In response to this problem we on behalf of our organization WASTE CONCERN, have taken the initiative of setting up a network of community based decentralized composting plants for converting household garbage into bio-fertilizer. The program has created a self-sustaining service by engaging the community, public bodies and private sectors companies. The approach is simple and socio-economically and climatically suitable for Bangladesh. Initially, 1995 Waste Concern started a pilot demonstration community based composting plant in Mirpur, Dhaka on a land given by Lion Club (Dhaka Northern). After continuous demonstration of the project to the stakeholders of Bangladesh in 1998, under the Sustainable Environmental Management Program (SEMP) the Ministry of Environment and Forest with the support from UNDP requested Waste Concern to replicate the model in 5 different communities of Dhaka city. Land was the biggest constraint to initiate the model of community based composting plants in the city. Later on, after continuous advocacy and demonstration, the Dhaka City Corporation and Public Works Department were convinced and came into a partnership with Waste Concern by providing land for the composting plants.

How have you seen results?
The success of a community-based program depends largely on identifying and addressing the community’s needs while sustainability of the project depends on involving them in the cost-recovery/cost-sharing process. Community based projects have demonstration effect. NGOs can play an important role in initiating and demonstrating new concepts and providing technical know-how and training to others. Small-scale compost plant can be located within the community provided appropriate scientific composting method is followed. Decentralized compost plant is commercially viable as seen from the Mirpur experience. It has been found that women from informal sector are interested to work in the composting plant, and it is socially acceptable. Initially marketing of compost was a major problem. This problem was solved by involving the private specialized fertilizer marketing companies (experienced and already have extensive network all over Bangladesh). Media can play a vital role in popularizing compost. Press has played a positive role in disseminating the project activity in Bangladesh. Apart from media, Government has to make necessary policy conducive to marketing of compost. Based on the evidence gathered so far by the pilot project of Waste Concern, it appears that this type of micro-enterprise can be replicated in Dhaka and elsewhere in Bangladesh as well as in other Asian countries. Realization of full potential of this kind of project, however, can only be achieved if the government or municipal authorities provide the following types of support: Land should be provided free of cost or at a nominal rate to the entrepreneurs interested to run the project. Public-Private-Community Partnership. Training and Technical Advice. Assistance in marketing of compost. Waste Concern’s experience shows that the enrichment of compost with necessary nutrients can make it more attractive, affordable and effective to the farmers for better.