Could worsen the waste problem

Yangyel Lhaden

If waste is a problem, it could get worse with waste collectors, scrap dealers and exporters all  experiencing their line of business come to a halt.

Scrap dealers in the country have stopped buying papers, plastic bottles, and cardboard boxes without being able to re-sell the recyclables across the border. They have not exported to India since the lock down. Within the country, only scrap items such as metal scraps and beer bottles are sold to the Pasakha Industrial Estate.

The recycling market at present is heavily dependent on the scrap dealers across the borders, according to the National Waste Management Strategy (NWMS), 2019.

Wholesale dealers, big and small groceries and marts generate truckloads of cardboard waste every month. Without collectors, they are lost of ideas where to discard their waste.

The owner of Shopper’s Store in Thimphu said that it had been more than five months since no scrap dealers had come to collect her waste. She said that she was storing all the boxes in the store and re-cycling to pack eggs and as a substitute for plastics.

With limitation to re-sell, scrap yards in the capital are overflowing with wastes. The proprietor of AS Scrap dealer in Olakha, Aita, said that people are dropping their paper and bottle waste at his yard. “We had to buy it before,” he said.

Aita tried to sell the recyclable within the country, but could not even get the cost price. “Both people and scrapyards are facing challenges to manage the waste,” he said.

If the situation prolongs, Memelakha would be the destination for the waste. Scrap dealers like Aita are planning to dump it at the Memelakha landfill.

In Phuentsholing, scrap dealer Tashi Wangchuk ran a lucrative business exporting pet bottles, other plastic wastes and cardboard before the closure of the border. Without export, he is not receiving these scraps, he said.

Scrap dealers used to export one to two trips of metal scraps, three to four trips of rubber scraps and at least a truckload of cardboard scrap in a month to India.

In Thimphu, the few scrap collectors have stopped collecting. A shopkeeper said without buyers, the collectors are out of work. “We even offered money to the collectors to come and collect our recyclable wastes,” he said.

According to the NWMS, municipal solid waste in Thimphu in 2018 consisted of 9.2 percent- paper, 2.2 percent glass and electronic waste, 13 percent plastic, 4.3 percent leather and rubber, and 0.2 percent metal and aluminum.

Additional reporting by Rajesh Rai in Phuentsholing