Circular Economy Of Municipal Solid Waste In Pakistan

Circular Economy Of Municipal Solid Waste In Pakistan
Nature operates in a circular mode while humans survive and thrive on a linear growth model. The circular path encompasses that the loop is closed, this way nothing is wasted and sustainability is ensured.

In the circular model, the final product, even if humans declare it as waste, serves the purpose of restarting the cycle of production. The simplest example of this is the natural conversion of organic waste into soil nutrients.

Humans, on the other hand, follow a linear path of take, make, use and discard. This has created dumps of used products on earth and has also placed a great strain new raw material resources.

In the developed countries the concept of circular economy has been around for a few decades, it’s now described as "Sustainable Circular Economy”. The Green Economy Model is being converted to Blue Economy Model (this is different from the one associated with water). Design improvement along with use of natural, bio-degradable and reusable resources is one of the major pillars of new approach for production of industrial commodities. There has been production of bio-degradable plastic and smarter designs to lessen the use of raw materials. It is possible that humans think of even better ideas in the future, for this segment.

However, for products of nature, human interference in design change has been limited. Municipal waste generated by densely populated urban centers is a result of human activities. Even the process of dumping employs a lot of human and financial resources. In nature, most of this organic waste, could have closed the nutrient cycle and added to the production of new products.

Pakistan’s waste dynamic is similar to most developing countries. Recyclables such as packaging waste, plastic, metal, glass and paper are few categories which are scavenged by the informal sector due to their economic value. Other waste that is combustible is taken to produce solid fuel.

Up to 50 per cent of total municipal waste is organic in nature, it could become part of the natural cycle, with a small nudge in the right direction. Instead, it is collected, transported, and dumped. In the process it uses huge finances, occupies land, and produces leachate and methane gas, both of which threaten environmental and human health. These wasted resources must be exploited for greater benefit and to close the natural loop i.e., the circular model of nature.

There have been efforts to produce compost or gas from this segment of waste in Pakistan. But most attempts have not been able to give expected outcomes. Black Soldier Fly and its Larvae (BSFL) is a novel technique in which organic waste is converted to marketable natural protein, oil and chitin. The method treats organic waste with remaining residue equivalent to only 10 per cent of the original waste amount. BSFL reared on the waste are natural source of protein for poultry.

Currently only one such facility is operational in Pakistan. Here, organic waste from an 800 strong students’ boarding school is converted into chicken feed. The potential of the BSFL technique is huge - considering that at least 50 per cent of waste produced in Pakistani cities is organic in nature. Any effort to make the organic waste a part of economy would add to the Sustainable Circular Economy. This would also relieve the financial pressure on local authorities tasked with handling this waste.