Have we finally found a solution to our mounting waste problem? Maybe, if cash incentives for waste segregation and proper disposal could be made possible. There is money in waste – our scrap dealers know it well. If waste can be segregated and disposed of properly, it is a good way to manage waste by allowing a few to make a living.

With Greener Way receiving financial support to initiate a waste bank project worth USD 1.5 million funded by the World Bank,  waste could be a source of income and not a nuisance. It could create some jobs and ultimately lead to an understanding that waste has to be segregated and managed – this is the aim and the wish.

Although known to be a clean country comparatively, waste is a big issue in Bhutan. Despite pumping in millions and creating awareness, managing waste is an uphill task like the hills that surrounds us. Waste is one of the biggest problems in the country. This is because we are not segregating our waste at source. Even if we do, there are no places to drop off segregated waste. The effort to segregate becomes useless when the thromde’s waste collector asks you to dump all waste-  separated or not- in the back of the trash truck.

Can a million dollars solve the problem? It might help segregation, but the problem is way beyond segregation. The problem is in the implementation of policies. Somehow, clean Bhutan couldn’t come with a good policy to reduce, reuse or recycle waste. We know the problem. For instance, the small plastic pouch is one of the many visible plastic wastes. We banned plastic. We couldn’t implement the ban.

A lot of the waste could be recycled. The pet bottles from the bottled water companies, the glass bottles from the breweries and the plastic from unregulated policy on regulation to ban it is the biggest nuisance. If there is an effort to curb the waste problem, it is from the few individuals or fewer groups trying to clean the city of the waste. Those who receive funds in the name of environment conservation or protection have failed.

It is said that waste can be controlled if it is stopped at the source. Segregating and disposing is only a desperate measure. Why is plastic a problem after years of claiming to have banned plastic?   Our officials, agencies and authorities hate the media for pointing out the lapses. But the reality is that what they are attempting to do has minimal impact on the ground. Environment by the way, gets a lot of funding support. What is lacking is results on the ground.

Achieving zero waste by 2030 is an ambitious target going by the reality now. Money alone will not do wonders. We need behavioral change. Perhaps, penalising those who litter or dispose off waste in open spaces could help. We know that the stick rule helps when the carrot fails. When it comes to waste, we need stricter rules including penalising people after establishing enough drop off centres and regular collections.