For two years now, Namgay, a 32-year-old resident of Thimphu, along with her friends, has been diligently picking up trash in their community. Week after week, they gather an impressive average of 40 kilograms of waste, with their record haul reaching a staggering 200 kilograms. Their efforts, though commendable, shed light on a much larger issue: waste management in the country, particularly in urban areas like Thimphu, is a pressing concern that demands immediate attention.

Thimphu alone produces a staggering 18,000 tonnes of waste each year. With projections indicating that by 2024, this figure could skyrocket to 68.6 tonnes per day, it’s evident that the current trajectory is unsustainable. The scale of waste generation poses a significant challenge to our environment, public health, and overall quality of life.

Namgay and her friends’ grassroots initiative exemplifies the potential for positive change when individuals take responsibility for their surroundings. If every Bhutanese citizen were to adopt a similar proactive approach to waste management, collectively, we could alleviate the burden on our communities and environment. By reducing, reusing, and recycling, we can minimise the volume of waste entering landfills and mitigate the associated environmental hazards.

However, individual actions alone cannot fully address the magnitude of the waste management crisis. It is imperative for both governmental and non-governmental entities to collaborate on comprehensive strategies and initiatives. This necessitates investment in infrastructure for waste collection, segregation, recycling, and disposal, as well as public education and awareness campaigns to foster a culture of responsible waste management.

Furthermore, the adoption of innovative technologies and practices, such as composting and biogas generation, can help transform organic waste into valuable resources while reducing our reliance on traditional landfill disposal methods. Such holistic approaches not only address immediate waste management challenges but also contribute to broader sustainability goals, aligning with our commitment to environmental conservation and Gross National Happiness.

It is high time for concerted action to tackle the waste management crisis head-on. Government agencies, local authorities, businesses, civil society organisations, and individuals must come together in a unified effort to implement effective waste management solutions. This will require prioritising waste reduction and recycling, investing in infrastructure and technology, strengthening regulatory frameworks, and fostering community engagement and ownership.

Namgay and her friends have shown us the power of individual initiative. It is up to all of us to translate their example into widespread change.