Bangkok faces a smelly future if garbage goes unchecked
If there is no effective waste management, Bangkok will be overwhelmed with garbage in 2015 when the integration of the Asean community allows the free movement of workers within member countries.
"With a higher ratio of garbage per head than other capitals, we need to adopt a 'think new and act new' approach to manage the problem,'' said Assoc Prof Sirinthornthep Taoprayoon, director of the Joint Graduate School of Energy and Environment (JGSEE).
The modern world needs to look at garbage from a new perspective. What was earlier considered a "problem" or that "disgusting thing that should be destroyed quickly", it is now seen as a valuable resource provided a good management system is adopted right from the start. The number of landfill gas projects across the world, which convert methane gas emitted from decomposing garbage into electricity, rose from 399 in 2005 to 594 in 2012.
In Bangkok, the idea of managing waste by turning it into electricity has been at the conception stage since late last year under the initiative of former governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra. The Bt2-billion project requires an incinerator to be placed in Nong Khaem district, where it can dispose of about 500 tonnes of waste daily and produce about 4 megawatts of power. Construction should be completed within two years.
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has already started turning organic waste into fertiliser on a small scale. Sirinthornthep said the agency should expand this into a larger operation that generates an income by incorporating the private sector.
The biggest challenge of waste management is recycling and separation - something the city administration has been unable to effectively implement, Sirinthornthep said. Organic waste needs to be separated so it can be turned into fertiliser, while the rest of the garbage can be dumped in the landfill. This way, space used by landfills can be reduced. He also suggested that the management of garbage be privatised because the current centralised system is not efficient or environmentally friendly owing to the 2,000 large garbage trucks and dozens of boats deployed for garbage collection, producing lots of carbon dioxide in the process, Sirinthornthep said.
Assoc Prof Jurairat Duangduan, deputy rector of Siam Technology University, advised the BMA to instil awareness among Bangkok residents about recycling and reducing the amount of garbage, as well as to launch a campaign promoting garbage separation.
With candidates campaigning hard to win the March 3 Bangkok election, Monchai Purisatien, Ruamjai Pattana community leader, said residents wanted the future governor to get rid of the foul odour emanating from the landfill nearby because it has affected their health and well-being for as long as 20 years.
Supak Yodsuksa, chairman of the Mahadthai 2 community, said many residents in her community earned money from separating garbage and they hope the new governor will allow communities to continue getting this income instead of handing the entire process to a private firm.
The capital produces 9,745 tonnes of garbage daily or 3.5 million tonnes per year. Last year, the amount of waste in Bangkok rose by 9 per cent or an additional 800 tonnes daily. Only 12 per cent of waste is recycled per day and the remaining 8,000-plus tonnes is dumped in landfill.
The BMA uses 2,000 rented garbage trucks, employs 50,000 garbage collectors and pays about Bt1,000 per tonne to concessionaires to manage garbage dumping.
Three Bangkok governor candidates on garbage disposal and management
Pheu Thai Party candidate Pongsapat Pongcharoen
_ Encourage garbage recycling from home by having different trash bins and different colour garbage trucks for different types of garbage.
_ Encourage communities to have a factory to destroy non-toxic garbage.
_ Reduce the size of garbage trucks to increase garbage collection efficiency.
Democrat candidate MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra
_ Increase garbage collection to reduce the accumulation of garbage.
_ Establish garbage collection and garbage disposal systems that are more environmentally friendly, including transforming garbage into clean energy.
_ Sukhumbhand, during his term, has initiated installation of a garbage incinerator worth more than Bt2 billion, which can turn heat into electricity. The incinerator, which will be constructed in Nong Khaem district, uses technology from China and can burn up to 300-500 tonnes of garbage per day.
Independent candidate Suharit Siamwalla
_ Grant concessions to the private sector to sell different types of waste after garbage separation.
_ Garbage is separated into "red garbage", which is not bio-degradable; "yellow garbage", which may be disposable; and "green garbage", which is bio-degradable.
_ Use income from garbage concession to build more parks in Bangkok.