Turning wastes into resource Asia’s biggest challenge, says UN Habitat

GANGWON Province, Korea (MindaNews/28 August) – Turning wastes into a resource is quite a challenge for developing countries in Asia, said a representative from the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN Habitat).

“The technology’s there, but the problem is financial. This technology needs big capital investments,” stressed Rajesh Manandhar, coordinator of the Water for Asian Cities Program of the UN Habitat based in Nepal.

Manandhar, a lecturer during the 2nd Solid Waste Management (SWM) by community-based campaign held at the International Urban Training Center (IUTC) here set to conclude next week, said there’s a need that countries in Asia explore other technologies, aside from the traditional way of dumping wastes into open grounds, in order to protect the environment and prevent the spread of diseases.

Data from the UN Habitat showed that among the countries in Asia that still use open dumping include Bangladesh, Iran, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

The limited resources of these countries, taking into account the high capital investments on infrastructure, somehow constrain them from spending on SWM advanced technologies, he said.

Fuel derived from wastes

To have a better understanding of Korea’s SWM technology, Manandhar and some IUTC staff toured participants from Asia to several SWM facilities, including the state-of-the-art refuse-derived fuel (RDF) facility in Saje-ri in Wonju, the largest city in Gangwon.

“Instead of using existing processes such as burial at dumpsites, we establish a new system for developing energy resources from daily household wastes,” said Jae-Ha Noh from the Office of Resource Recycling of the Department of Environment Policy in Gangwon Province.

Using a waste converter technology, fuel is derived after shredding the dehydrated solid wastes, mostly plastics and biodegradable refuse.

The RDF facility in Wonju, explained Noh, can produce 40 tons of refused-derived fuel out of 80 tons of garbage collected daily.

The fuel is then sold to cement and paper factory.

“For a ton of RDF, the Gangwon province earns about US$25 or US$350,000 a year,” Noh said.

The Korea government spent some US$11.5 million to build the facility in 2005.

Turning wastes into energy

Korea’s SWM technologies also include incinerators.

There are 13 incineration facilities located in Gangwon, including the SWM Facility in Hongcheon County and the Environmental Energy Center in Sokcho City.

“The heat generated by the incineration, for example in Sokcho City, is used by saunas located inside the facility. Heat recovery from incineration: hot water for apartments near the facility and electricity for office through the hot steam,” said Noh.

He stressed that the initial cost of advanced facilities would be much less than the cost in the future, thus, “changing wastes into resource and energy is highly economical.”

The use of the technology, however, is not that easy, said Manandhar.

“It requires careful understanding and cautious selection, proper monitoring of the technology adopted, flexibility, operational resource management, and continued research and development,” he added.

Philippines’ Clean Air Act

The Philippines is not keen on putting up incineration facilities since the passage of the Republic Act 8749 or the Clean Air Act.

The law bans the use of incineration or the burning of municipal, biomedical and hazardous wastes, which process emits poisonous and toxic fumes.

The government, instead, tasked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to promote the use of state-of-the-art, environmentally-sound and safe non-burn technologies for the handling, treatment, thermal destruction, utilization, and disposal of sorted, un-recycled, un-composted, biomedical, and hazardous wastes.

The available SWM technologies in the Philippines include sanitary landfills and material recovery facilities.

Sustainable SWM technologies

Manandhar said that for solid waste management technology to be sustainable in a certain country, especially in Asia, it needs to consider human resources, finance, operation and management, and treating all stakeholders as partners.

“Also, the government has to conduct consultations and consensus from stakeholders during formulation of policies and regular reviews should be conducted by both public and private agencies, including the service providers,” he concluded. (Malu Cadeliña Manar / MindaNews)

[The writer is a participant to the IUTC training and presented a case study on the “Role of news media, e-media included, in enhancing the campaign on solid waste management.”]