One of the major environmental problems in Sri Lanka from time to time is the problem of garbage disposal in the suburbs. With technological and industrial advances, the number of people gathering in and around the suburbs has
increased. Their various consumption patterns have contributed to the increasing garbage collection in the area. The recent escalation of the issue comes from protests against the Aruwakkalu garbage container and the halting of garbage disposal in the Colombo city.
The gravity and the seriousness of Sri Lanka’s garbage issue were aptly exposed following the 2017 Meetotamulla garbage landslide. However, the solution was only to get garbage transported to garbage dumps but nothing else. The issue has not been resolved to this date.
Although garbage is taken to the Aruwakkalu garbage dump at present, environmental issues and public protests have caused a number of problems regarding. When the capacity of the dump exceeds the garbage will anyway have to be dumped elsewhere. Most countries have launched solid waste management projects with government initiation. However, there has not been such a proposal in Sri Lanka so far.
An RTI was filed to the Ministry of Municipal and Western Development requesting to know the existing and future garbage recycling mechanisms and projects of the government apart from transportation to the garbage dumps.
According to the response by the Ministry, solid waste collection programs in Sri Lanka takes place at school and local authority levels. This project named 3R collects solid waste under different categories such as paper, polythene, plastic, glass, metal and so on. The project is running in several national schools with over 3000 students in Colombo and Gampaha districts. It was said that this process was practiced in 4 local authority bodies, 2 government institutions, 3 Apartment complexes, and 2 army headquarters. As per the requirements of the recycle process, types of polythene was also further differentiated.
However, the collected garbage is recycled at privately-owned institutions which have limited capacity. There was no mention of a government-controlled technology project for waste recycling. Recycling of waste requires a large-scale program based on waste management objectives beyond business objectives. Government involvement for this kind of project is mandatory. However, it is sad that we do not have such a focus as of yet.
Right to Information Act has helped reveal this long term issue that needs the attention of the authorities for the immediate implementation of a proper garbage disposal mechanism.