Waste segregation at source makes waste recycling viable, but segregation and disposal of waste is the biggest challenge, said business owners and experts.
"We need to create awareness among mass people about how to segregate and dispose waste," Jashim Uddin, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), said at a seminar jointly organised by the apex trade body and Unilever Limited in a city hotel on Saturday.
Professor Dr Ijaz Hossain, former dean of the Faculty of Engineering at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, said "The government has taken few good initiatives to address waste management in Bangladesh. However, the main challenge is the lack of technical and financial capability of the municipalities to collect waste from households and process unsegregated mixed waste."
Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperative (LGRD) Minister Md Tajul Islam also acknowledge the challenge and said, "It is difficult for the waste collectors to segregate from mixed waste dump yard. Besides, it is harmful."
The minister added that Initiatives have been taken to produce electricity by burning all types of waste generated in the country.
"In some city corporations including Dhaka, the activities are at the final stage. We hope to start generating electricity from waste very soon. And if this process starts, it will be possible to solve the waste problem in the country," he added.
Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Md Shahab Uddin, Senior Secretary of Prime Minister's Office Tofazzal Hossain Miah, were also present at the seminar.
Professor Dr Ijaz Hossain said, "In the short-term, we could install a Material Recovery Facility (MRF) and produce Revised Derived Fuel (RDF) from the waste at a lower cost. However, we need to localise the international models in our country."
"As most people of the country depend on plastic, directly and indirectly, proper research, piloting, and model testing should be completed before formulating any policy. Consultation with all stakeholders, including consumers, users, and manufacturers is important, otherwise, there is a chance that the policy may appear to be impractical and may harm the consumers" – he added.
Architect Iqbal Habib, also a renowned environment expert, emphasised formalising the waste management system under the city corporation.
"We don't want to see it (waste collection) as an industry of extortion," he said.
"Without realistic effort, proper waste management cannot be possible," he added.
Jashim Uddin said, "It is very common that plastic usage will increase with Per Capita Income and GDP, so the use of more plastic is a good sign for the economy. Using more Plastic is not the problem, rather, Plastic Waste Management is the main challenge."
He also said, "One key area for intervention is mass awareness creation about waste disposal. If we could segregate waste at source like in developed countries by increasing the engagement of people, we would be able to implement a sustainable model for plastic waste management."
Some companies coming forward to collect plastic waste:
It was revealed in the seminar that there are a few companies, which have come forward to collect plastic waste. Unilever Bangladesh Limited started it in Narayanganj and Chattogram area.
In the last two years, the company collected 1600 tonnes of plastic waste from that area. This year the company plans to collect about 4000 tonnes of waste.
"We have plans to collect more than the amount of plastic waste we produce," said Zaved Akhtar, managing director, and chief executive officer of Unilever Bangladesh.
Shamim Ahmed, President of Bangladesh Plastic Goods Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BPGMEA), Eun Joo Allison Yi, Senior Environmental Specialist of the World Bank, Razinara Begum, director of the department of environment also spoke at the seminar.