Waste management remains an issue of national concern in Bhutan, particularly in the urban areas, due to the increasing quantity of waste generation, its improper disposal, and the associated pollution problems. The National Waste Inventory Survey (NWIS) 2019 reveals that Bhutan generates 172.16 Metric Tonnes (MT) of solid waste per day. Of this, the share of household waste stands the highest with 47.34% followed by commercial units with 39.09%. In terms of household waste, the average household waste generated is 0.7 kg per day in urban areas compared to 0.4 kg per day in rural areas.
Of the total households, more than 60% lacks access to waste collection services in the country and, more than 75% of the urban households have access to waste collection services against the 15% of the rural households. In urban areas, 88.5% of the households segregate their waste compared to 78.4% in rural areas.
In most of the urban centres, the municipal waste collection system, to a large extent, has been established by the local authorities in collaboration with private waste management entities. The local government and the private entities provide waste services ranging from three days to five days a week. The waste segregation has been initiated but the level of segregation varies widely. The perception survey highlighted that the frequency of waste collection services, location of the collection point, and timing of collection are the major hurdles towards effective collection and management of waste as reflected in the figure below.
Figure. Reasons for not using waste management services (proportion)
The landfills in Bhutan are overflowing due to the minimal current practices of waste treatment, recovery and recycling. While a fraction of valuable dry waste is collected and sold to the recyclers, composting is negligible and there are no systems in place for managing household hazardous waste.
Furthermore, there is no established system for waste management in rural areas. While some of the wastes are managed by the Dzongkhags, especially in peri-urban areas, most wastes left unattended are dumped in open fields or burnt. Consequently, the local governments are overwhelmed with the growing waste problems.
Against these backdrops, there is a need to institute a holistic waste management practices across the country to address the growing waste-related problems. Therefore, in line with the National Waste Management Strategy 2019, the Waste Management Flagship Program is implemented in the 12th FYP to provide an end-to-end intervention for waste management in Bhutan.
The Royal Government of Bhutan endorsed the ‘Waste Management Flagship Program’ on January 23, 2020, during the 46th Lhengye Zhungtshog. Prior to the government endorsement, Her Majesty the Gyaltsuen most graciously launched the Waste Management Flagship Programme on June 2, 2019. This flagship program intends to embark on a multi-pronged approach with a goal to achieve Zero Waste Bhutan whereby the current trend of disposing over 80% to the landfill is reversed to less than 20% by the year 2030 based on the principles of the circular economy. This can be achieved through the propagation of 100% source segregation and provision of adequate downstream facilities such as the provision of segregation bins to all households, an adequate number of waste collection facilities & drop-off centres at convenient locations, efficient collection, storage, and transportation systems, functional material recovery facilities and final disposal facilities such as sanitary landfills and incineration plants.
These facilities will be complemented by education and awareness on the consequences of unmanaged waste to both human health and the environment; policy interventions, particularly on the establishment of a sustainable financial mechanism to realize a self-sustaining model for effective and efficient management of all streams of waste; and the private sector involvement in the provision of waste management services.
The vision of the National Waste Management Flagship Program is to realize Zero Waste Bhutan by 2030, in line with the National Waste Management Strategy 2019. Zero Waste means, through effective source segregation, maximum material recovery will be attained with only the absolute waste of approximately 20% requiring safe disposal.
The flagship program will endeavour to achieve the following objectives: