Expert waste managers on working towards a greener, cleaner future
Humans play an important role in the waste cycle, from raw material extraction and processing through product manufacturing and disposal. A waste management system may provide advantages and generate income or cause significant environmental harm depending on how well a community is informed and aware of the types of trash it produces and its possible consequences on the natural environment and public health. Interventions in waste management should be supported by public awareness and education campaigns. Waste is the product of human activity, and every person must be aware of the problems and risks associated with waste management, as well as the critical role we play in turning waste into riches. British Council Sri Lanka held a webinar, recently named “Trash Week” that discussed many means of proper waste management. The panellists included Western Power Company Pvt Ltd General Manager Janitha Ekanayake, INSEE Ecocycle Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd. Director Sanjeewa Chulakumara, and Sisili Hanaro Encare CEO Chinthaka Abeysekera. Circular economy concept Sanjeewa Chulakumara began the webinar by highlighting the challenges Sri Lanka is currently facing such as land degradation, depletion of coastal resources, inland water pollution, loss of biodiversity, and most importantly, waste pollution. Waste pollution is mainly caused by corporate companies’ lack of proper disposal of waste after resources have been extracted and instead, they discharge the waste into the environment and cause dangerous emissions to take place. Thus, he stated that the circular economy concept is the way forward. Explaining this concept, he said: “A circular economy is ‘a model of production and consumption, which involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible’ that aims at tackling global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, waste, and pollution.” He also shared that his company takes this route and does their part for the environment, thereby engaging in a proper waste disposal method.Chulakumara also commented: “Even in the capital city of Sri Lanka, we had a huge waste dump that collapsed, causing the death of 30 people. This is why we need to move away from linear concepts and turn to a more sustainable approach in the long term.” In his opinion, the fundamental idea behind this concept is to decouple growth from resource depletion by developing innovative business models. Moving away from the linear “take-make-dispose” to a more circular approach in production and consumption could be the biggest economic transformation since the industrial revolution, which since the climate crisis is fast becoming, is a necessary change. Gap in small medium-space solutions Chinthaka Abeysekera highlighted the gap for waste management solutions in smaller businesses and areas, explaining that his company began with the issue of clinical waste management. Upon the incorporation of his company, they began to realise that while they see all these big solutions for other countries, the idea of localising it wasn’t available. They came up with a solution not only to meet operational standards, but environmental standards as well. “We focused on engineering and took concepts of what we see in developed countries and incorporated that into the Sri Lanka concept.” As a result, they have been able to produce a mid-sized solution that meets both the EU and central environmental authorities standards as well. “This is where we made a niche for ourselves as we were able to de-size large flue gas treatment systems and match it to our mid size requirements,” he added. He also stated that since this mechanism has been successfully built, it is ready to be replicated so that other small and medium enterprises can purchase the system, thus effectively reducing harmful waste disposal mechanisms and working towards a greener, cleaner future. Waste to energy process Sri Lanka now is capable of converting municipal waste into electricity. Janitha Ekanayake shared more about this process: “Sri Lanka’s first Waste-to-Energy Plant was officially launched in February this year in Kerawalapitiya by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. The power plant is planned to generate 10 MW using 700 tonnes of garbage daily and will operate by collecting waste from the area.” He further explained that the plant, located just 12 km from central Colombo, can accommodate a total of 700 metric tonnes (MT) of input daily, which will be a significant contribution to manage the 7,000 MT of daily waste being accumulated in Sri Lanka, of which 60% is from the Western Province alone. “Waste to energy plants will reduce landfills, conserve fossil fuels, and provide sustainable solutions that are not just environmentally friendly, but will also be the panacea for the continuation of life on earth,” he added. The key objectives of sustainable waste to energy systems are to constantly improve the urban living environment, increase economic productivity, advance direct public health benefits, and facilitate safe, dignified and secure employment opportunities. An integrated system consists of the key processes from the point of waste generation to final waste disposal, including waste identification, handling the waste at source, separation and storage at the source, collection from the source of generation, and transfer or transport for the final process of disposal/recycle/recovery, which, Ekanayake added, was their goal with the latest project.