THE absence of any formal waste recycling mechanism is highly worrying even though the authorities often speak of the need for and practicality of waste recycling and transforming wastes into wealth. Many countries have adopted technologies to transform wastes into wealth, but Bangladesh lags behind in even effectively collecting solid wastes which has an adverse impact on the environment and public health. About 80 per cent of solid wastes produced in the country can be recycled and transformed into wealth, but the authorities have failed to prioritise waste recycling and put a recycling mechanism in place. What the country has so far done in waste management appears to be nothing but the relocation of dumps and the problems thereof. Because of an unplanned disposal of an estimated one crore tonnes of solid waste in urban and rural areas, Bangladesh loses agricultural land and habitats of people, animals and birds. Although there are a number of laws, policies and guidelines to ensure an environmentally-friendly management of wastes, neither the chaotic disposal of solid wastes in open spaces, low-lying areas, canals and rivers has been arrested nor have facilities for reusing and recycling the wastes for fuel, fertiliser or power been created.
The unplanned disposal of municipal wastes, kitchen market wastes, faecal sludge and medical and electronic wastes keeps polluting the environment, adversely impacting the fertility of soil and spreading diseases. An improper management of wastes also has an impact on the food chain as plants and animals bioaccumulate heavy metals, present in wastes, from the environment and the plants and animals, used as sources of food, then contribute to the uptake of heavy metals by humans. The city produces an estimated 6,464 tonnes of solid wastes, resulting from household, industrial and commercial activities, while only a half of them is collected by city authorities for disposal into dumps and the other half remains uncollected, littering by the road and in other open places. Moreover, only 20 per cent area of the capital is under sewerage coverage, resulting in the pollution of water and air. Cases with other cities, municipalities and rural areas are no less upsetting. Wrong policies, apathy to enforce relevant laws, a poor allocation of budget for waste management and sanitation, along with poor coordination among the ministries and agencies concerned, have led to such a waste management failure.
Recommendations on safe waste disposal and waste recycling have come aplenty from government and non-governmental organisations and it is time the authorities acted on them. The government and the agencies concerned must take effective steps to implement the 3R strategy — reduce, reuse and recycle. The required attention must be given and the budgetary allcoation must also be made to have waste recycling facilities installed in all cities. The authorities must also encourage and facilitate informal sectors engaged in waste recycling.