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WMA to enter mass scale compost market:

Composting comes in handy to manage solid waste in WP



Nogoda, Pohorawatta compost facility

A few years back, when heaps of garbage gathered on a daily basis from the households in the Western Province, the most populated province in the country, people never thought that those heaps of garbage one day would become mountains of garbage and pose a social and environmental threat in the country.

It was only after these heaps of municipal waste invaded valuable lands in the Western Province that the local authorities frantically began to search for lands to dump their municipal waste; the authorities realised that the municipal waste is a serious issue to be tackled with.

As local government bodies, the sole authority on the waste collection in the country ran out of solutions for the municipal waste, the central government had to intervene in the issue of waste management as it became more of a national issue in the country going beyond the capacities of the local authorities.

Priyantha Samarakkody,
Director WMA
Nalin Mannaperuma,
Deputy Director WMA

The 'Pilisaru' program initiated by the Environment Ministry in 2008 was the national level program launched to tackle the issue of solid waste management in the country.

The solid waste management has become a serious issue in the Western Province as it generates more than 3,500 metric tonnes of solid waste daily which is equivalent to 60 percent of the national waste generation.

The shortage of dumping sites for the local authorities to dump these garbage has worsened the situation as open dumping sites create huge environmental and health issues in the province that eventually ended up in the judiciary as there was no proper solution for those issues.

Therefore, systems and mechanisms have to be evolved to overcome this issue of municipal waste and rid this issue systematically from our environment. The Local Authorities were given the technical know-how and the required funding to tackle this issue and made use of this municipal waste as a resource.

When the Central Environment Authority under the central government was finding solutions for the issue at national level the Waste Management Authority of the Western Provincial Council also stepped forward in solving the issue within the Western Province itself where the problem was so acute.

The Waste Management Authority which adopted a five year action plan in 2010, introduced seven steps for the solid waste management in the province, namely the management of waste at source, proper collection/acceptance of waste from the generating point, cleaning of streets and public places, providing of adequate infrastructure facilities, improved system of waste transportation, use of collected waste as a "resource" and the providing of proper final disposal facilities.

The WMA objective behind the implementation of the seven steps in solid waste management is to understand and identify groups and individuals responsible organisations or people to perform waste management programs within the Western Province.


Sorting garbage at the site prior to composting

Composting in process

According to Deputy Director of the Waste Management Authority Nalin Mannaperuma, those seven steps were adopted to manage the solid waste from generation to final disposal. The Waste management Authority took the responsibility of implementing the 6th and 7th steps to use waste as 'resource' and providing final disposal facilities. The respective local authorities were made responsible for the implementation of the other five steps except for the first step which was the responsibility of the general public.

"We have a five year master plan for the entire Western Province and we have given priority for the Colombo district because the waste problem is very much severe in that district. Coming to the Kalutara district, the basic information reveals that 16 Local Authorities in the district are collecting 150 metric tonnes of garbage per day," he said.

"Actually right now there is no proper final disposal facilities for many local authorities in the Kalutara district. Therefore, they are compelled to dump their garbage in open dumps and these open dumps have created a lot of problems to the environment such as air pollution, water pollution and ground water pollution. Then it also affects the aesthetic beauty of the area. All those problems are linked with the improper handling of municipal solid waste", he added.

Out of these seven steps in waste management, the sixth step is important and it focuses on using waste as a resource.

"That is a very important step and once people sort garbage at source there is huge potential to use this garbage as a resource.

To do that actually we introduce different kinds of techniques, programs, to use waste as resource not only at the generation level even at the local authority level and some times at provincial level", he added.

Considering the characteristics of the waste generation in the Western Province, 60 to 70 percent of the waste are perishable waste and another 15 to 20 percent is recyclable waste.

"Perishable waste is that is the most difficult part to manage, because Sri Lankan garbage has a high moisture content around 60 to 70 percent and also we are living in the tropical environment condition. Therefore if we do not properly manage and collect the garbage there is a tendency for the garbage to rot in very short period. Therefore, within six to eight hours we have to collect all the garbage otherwise it will start decaying process", Mannaperuma added.

This situation may create huge environmental issues.

"Therefore, to tackle this the WMA is promoting composting project, bio-gas generation program and making animal feed out of food waste. These three options are available for the managing of perishable waste and out of these making compost can be practised at the Local Government level", he added.

The composting of perishable waste is also implemented at different level at household level and local authority level.

In the 16 Local Authorities in the Kalutara, eight community level waste composting facilities have been established and in the entire Western Province 20 such programs are being implemented by the Local Authorities.

"It is not only the Waste Management Authority of the Western Provincial Council which is supporting these programs, the Pilisaru project of the Central Environment Authority under the Environment Ministry also supporting these local government bodies to implement these composting facilities", Mannaperuma added.

Apart from these composting facilities handled by single local authorities, mass scale composting facilities operating on commercial level are also available within the province.

Those facilities can handle more than 25 metric tonnes per day and they cater the service not only for one local authority but for two or more local authorities.

"Since this facility cater to more than one local authority, no Chairman can get the responsibility of that facility. Under that circumstances the WMA takes the responsibility of handling and managing such kind of waste management facilities within the province", he added.

Under that basis the WMA identified the requirement of mass scale waste processing facility for the Kalutara district and the Nagoda solid waste dump operated by the Kalutara Urban Council was selected to implement such mass scale composting facility as Kalutara Urban Council and Kalutara Pradeshiya Sabha and the private parties used to dump more than 30 metric tonnes of waste to this site on daily basis.

"Therefore requirement was there to establish a waste processing facility but we had problem with regard to funding for this project. 'Pilisaru' the national waste management program, identified the potential of having such a big facility there and they invest Rs. 90 million to establish this facility", Nalin Mannaperuma added.

"The capacity of this facility is 60 metric tonnes per day and we can manufacture 60 metric tonnes of compost easily under this project. With the generous support given by the Pilisaru project which was started in March 2011 and technical assistance and machinery to run the place at the designed capacity were also provided by the Pilisaru project", he added

Now, the Waste Management Authority is undertaking the whole operation of the facility after it was handed over to the WMA by the Environment Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, Central Environment Authority Chairman Charitha Herath and Director of the Pilisaru project.

"Presently we are taking more than 35 metric tonnes of mixed garbage from the Kalutara Urban Council and the Kalutara Pradeshiya Sabha and at the site we have sorting mechanism. We have employed around 16 site workers, site manager and a supervisor. Altogether 18 people are working under this facility to perform this facility", Mannaperuma added.

This facility can go up to 60 metric tonnes per day and there is a possibility of taking the garbage from Panadura Urban Council and Panadura Pradeshiya Sabha too for this facility.

"For the WMA, we have a five year action plan from 2010 to 2016 and under this action plan we have planned to convert 30 percent of the perishable waste to valuable compost. That means by 2015 we have to convert 44 metric tonnes of perishable garbage into compost per day. With the implementation of Nagoda, Pohorawatta composting facility we almost achieved that target since this site alone can convert 60 metric tonnes of perishable garbage in to compost", he added.

After almost 15 months of operations by the WMA at the Nagoda, Pohorawatta composting site it is now in the process of releasing the compost produced there to the market.

If proper techniques are followed when making compost, for example making big heat during the composting process to kill all those germs and unfavourable micro bacteria a high quality compost can be produced. If such a process is not followed we can't get high quality compost.

"At Pohorawatta site we are following these techniques and we have very well trained officers and technical officers to operate this composting facility. Therefore we can assure that the compost produced here is of high quality. Not only that, we take the samples of the compost to the Gannoruwa Agricultural Research Institute for analysis. Those samples say that actually it has good NPK (Nitrogen, Prosperous and Potassium) value and the other important characteristics are within the standards. Sometime they are beyond the specific standards. Therefore, we can assure that we are producing very good quality compost at our site", he added.

"Now we are in the production process and we are above to market these production next month. We are planning to have a formal function to release our product to the market under the product name Mihisaru", Mannaperuma added.

"This is the first time that the Waste Management Authority is directly involved in the compost manufacturing process and this is the time we are going to sell our products to the market", he added.

The WMA registering some dealers to market 'Mihisaru' compost in 50 Kg, 20 Kg and 10 Kg packs through registered dealers in the Western, Sabaragamuwa and Southern provinces.

"Currently we produce 80 metric tonnes of compost per month and we expect to expand this production capacity up to 150 metric tonnes of compost with the acceptance of the garbage from Panadura Urban Council and the Panadura Pradeshiya Sabha", he added.

The project is being implemented under the blessings of the Chief Minister of the Western Province Prasanna Ranatunga, other Provincial Ministers, Councillors, officials of the Provincial Council and the Chairman of the WMA, he added.

One of the important features of the project is that the WMA has prepared a separate environmental pollution monitoring and environment pollution mitigation mechanism within this site. "We are monitoring and taking measures to avoid any health hazard and environmental issues around the site", he added.

According to Priyantha Samarakkody, the WMA is planning to convert 820 metric tonnes of perishable waste into compost by 2016 with the improvement and strengthening of the existing composting facilities run by the local government authorities in the Western Province and by the WMA itself.

"Compost is very popular among the people of Sri Lanka. Therefore, we started use waste as a resource with composting. We have to use very simple technology and any one can understand that process and it is easy to operate also. The other thing is that we are agricultural based country. As one of the solutions we introduced composting. In future we have to go for other possibilities as well", he added.

"Our target is to improve those facilities to accommodate at least 1.5 to 2 times in respect of the designed capacity. For that we are obtaining Korean technology and Korean cooperation to introduce advance technology into them. Likewise our intention is not to increase the numbers but to improve the capacities of the existing facilities", he added.

"At the moment we have enough demand for the compost we produce at our facilities. In future this can be used for landscaping activities and that can be used for other purposes also. Anyway this will not be a big problem for us to dispose the quantity of compost generate at our composting sites since there is a growing demand for compost. This will also help us to manage the solid waste in the Western Province too very effectively", he added.

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