Nima | Gelephu

Scrap dealers in Gelephu were doing a steady business until border with Indian state of Assam closed due to Covid-19.

Of the seven scrap dealers in Tashiling, only three have managed to keep the business going. With export gate to Bongaigaon closed, small time Bhutanese dealers have decided to close the business temporarily.

At Bishal Scrapyard at the industrial service centre, the warehouse is packed with cardboard, plastic, and metal waste that come mostly from Sarpang, Zhemgang, and Tsirang.

The owner, Lok Bdr Katwal, said there were no returns despite huge investment. “Export is not at all possible and I am planning to close down,” he said. “There are no funds rolling today.”

Bishal Scrap used exports scraps worth Nu 1 million annually. A month before the lockdown, it exported over 18 tonnes of waste.

Lok Bdr Katwal said the pandemic had hampered his plan to expand his scrap business by purchasing a waste compressor. “I could export double the amount of waste with the help of the machine,” he said.

The Gelephu Thromde workers sold approximately 30 tonnes of waste that were segregated from the source to the scrap dealers monthly this year.

With the scrap business coming to a halt, selling the recyclable waste has become difficult.

An official said tonnes of waste would directly to the landfill in the absence of scrap business. Close to five tonnes of waste is deposited to the landfill in Gelephu today.

Dawa Zangmo, a scrap dealer, said it was difficult to stock scraps even with the help of a machine. “The warehouse is packed. There is no space for scraps.”

She added that only a few truckloads of waste could be sold to Phuentsholing. “Transportation charges are high because the shorter routes from Assam have closed. Running a scrap business not lucrative anymore.”

The price of scraps has also fallen almost by 50 percent.