Under its ‘Idea Space for Business Intelligence’ initiative, the National Institute for Business Management (NIBM) held a workshop on “Urban Organic Waste – could we manage better?” at its National Innovation Centre on March 1, with Megapolis and Western Development Minister Champika Ranawaka taking part as chief guest. The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) was [...]

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Better waste management options explored at NIBM workshop


Under its ‘Idea Space for Business Intelligence’ initiative, the National Institute for Business Management (NIBM) held a workshop on “Urban Organic Waste – could we manage better?” at its National Innovation Centre on March 1, with Megapolis and Western Development Minister Champika Ranawaka taking part as chief guest.

Minister Ranawaka and NIBM chief Prithiviraj Perera addressing the workshop.

The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) was a valued partner in conceptualising the workshop content and was well represented at the workshop with the participation of its senior officials.

In his welcoming address, NIBM Chairman Rohan Prithiviraj Perera stressed the importance of preserving the environment, a limited resource, for the future generations.

He said that in the disposal of waste, environmental issues should be looked at holistically, covering the wetlands ecosystems, particularly at a time when Colombo has been identified as a wetland city in keeping with the Ramsar Convention.

The importance of the oceans should also not be forgotten, because Sri Lanka was surrounded by the ocean and 71 percent of the Earth’s surface comprised oceans, he said.

“Environmental degradation through mismanagement of waste disposal also contributed to the spread of disease. Therefore all stakeholders should be working closely to find solutions to issues that beset the environment,” Mr.  Prithiviraj Perera said.  He posed the following questions:

  • What is the potential for entrepreneurs to turn the “Waste burden” into an investment and how should we attract more stakeholders to invest in solutions?
  • Are investments in food waste reduction only a CSR objective, or, could it be a revenue generator?
  • How could “data analytics” be used to find micro-level solutions — identifying the major sources of waste generation, their disposal mechanisms and the monitoring of the carrying capacity and limits of the disposal sites?

Addressing the workshop, Minister Ranawaka noted that much of the waste stemmed from the Western Province, particularly from the Colombo District, and outlined the various steps taken since the ‘Meethotamulla disaster’ to address waste management, beginning with the temporary solution at a site close to the Muthurajawela Marsh and now a long-term solution at the Aruwakkalu Sanitary Land Fill in the Puttalam District.

He also mentioned the delays and difficulties in finding suitable waste disposal sites due to unfair political interferences.

The minister said a major solution lay in the reduction and proper recovery, reuse and recycling of waste. He called for adequate incentives for recycling, and strict rules to impose fines on those disposing of waste without proper sorting.

He was also of the view that the “Waste-to-Energy” investments might not necessarily be suitable for a country like Sri Lanka, where the moisture content of waste was high and, consequently, costs of conversions could also become high.

Environmental Scientist and Waste Management Expert Dr. Pay Drechsel, and Agricultural Economist Dr. Miriam Otoo, who is also an expert in Carbon Nutrient Recovery for Agriculture — both from the International Water Management Institute (IWMS) — took the workshop through the challenges and possible solutions for urban waste. They focused on the methods for resource recovery, re-use and on how to ensure proper disposal of the waste.

Dr. Sujatha Gamage from LIRNE Asia made a presentation on “Economic Incentives and the Missing Elements in Solid Waste Management”.

Speaking on “education and training to spread the concept of recovery, re-use and recycling”, she cited the provision of NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) certification for solid waste workers as one option.

The second option, she said, was the command and control approach, which, while providing monetary incentives for recycling, would prohibit, through gazetted regulations, the manufacture of polythene products.

A value chain approach, beginning with the producers of goods and services, distributors, consumers and waste managers going up to the final disposal sites and to irregular dumping sites, including the oceans, should be followed up, by way of analytical approaches to finding solutions.

Views of panellists

A panel discussion co-chaired by NIBM Chairman Prithiviraj Perera and IWMI expert Dr. Drechsel, elicited the following proposals from the panellists:

Dhanujie Jayapala, Manager, Environmental Sustainability, MAS Capital Ltd.:  MAS Capital (Pvt) Ltd., in partnership with the Sri Lanka Navy, is taking steps to clean and minimise sea beach damage. Waste collected from the beach and the ocean are converted into to yarn and fabric.

The common ocean debris comprises plastic and glass bottles, grocery bags, disposable diapers, cardboard, rigifoam and aluminium cans. The highest amount of coastal waste comes from Crow Island, Mirissa, Nainativu, Galle, Hikkaduwa and Trincomalee in descending order.

Colombo Municipal Councillor Milinda Rajapaksha:  By imposing fines through laws and segregating waste, the CMC has succeeded in reducing waste from 800 to 650 tons per day.  Some 80 percent of the Colombo waste is bio-degradable.

The CMC stands ready to pay the private sector and NGOs to help in the recovery, segregation and reuse of waste, and also to have partnerships with specialised institutions like NIBM to find solutions through data analytics.

Nimal Prematilleka, a Solid Waste Management expert from the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development: Colombo accounted for 80 percent of the polythene and plastic waste and the new Port City site is also generating a sizeable proportion of waste. Waste could be segregated into nine categories. But the poorer sections of society will find it difficult to do the sorting.  Specialised centres for sorting are now being set up by the Ministry.

Nihal de Saram, Director, ICC Greenenergy (Pvt) Ltd., presented a composting machine for domestic use. Solid waste could move straight from the plate to the machine that will produce compost for reuse in just a few minutes. However, an import tax of 35 percent makes the machine expensive. Moves are underway to produce the machine locally.

Savera Weerasinghe, a Community Activist: The waste management process needs to be simplified and attractive incentives should be provided to encourage composting and to bring out end-products from waste, while creating demand for the end products.

The NIBM stands ready to help stakeholders to find solutions through the use of data analytics and hopes to extend similar initiatives through the National Innovations Centre, to help address issues that beset the nation in areas such as agriculture, transport, disaster risk reduction and management – and also issues that beset the corporate sector, with regard to predictions and trends in business.


Panel discussion in progress

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