The mass cleanup in Thimphu got underway on Wednesday 10 August with the help of more than 800 volunteers. In addition to clearing up the trash, the endeavor involved educating and raising awareness among the people.
It started in seven different locations. On day one it collected 16.4 tons (16,400 kg) of waste. The program will towards north Thimphu all the way till Tango-Cheri base before moving on to the peripheral areas of Thimphu.
Zero Waste Bhutan urged all the residents of Thimphu to lend a helping hand to keep our Capital city clean and work together to fulfill the vision of making Thimphu clean and beautiful.
The second day’s collection on 11 August stood at 19.2 tons of waste from the mass cleaning drive in collaboration with De-Suung – Guardians of Peace and other volunteers.
Day three of the mass cleaning drive were conducted by approximately 430 volunteers and 12.8 tons of littered waste were collected.
But an observation was that areas cleaned up on previous days are already getting littered.
“Therefore, we solicit your support to help us serve our community better,” said Zero Waste Bhutan.
The mass cleaning will last for up to a month, after which National Environment Commission (NEC) intends to penalize anyone who violates the rule.
Secretary of NEC, Sonam P Wangdi, said, “We’re getting the momentum on the zero-waste hour, which we used to have on the second of every month under Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen’s command. His Majesty and Her Majesty are deeply concerned about the waste issue. We are here now to ensure that we can live up to Their Majesty’s expectations.”
He said that this needs to be done on a regular basis, and they will attempt to maintain the momentum while the flagship program picks up pace, and they have a lot more programs.
There will also be a monitoring mobile app where NEC will be able to monitor and also involve DeSuups and other enforcement authorities so that they can report.
NEC plans to penalize people who violate waste management regulations. NEC is revising the fines to ensure that individuals who break the laws face severe penalties.
He said that for waste management, there is a need for a lot of social engineering, awareness, and in fact, the waste concept that the country has is a circular economy, in which the country will recycle and segregate waste and put it back into production.
Bhutan generates about 172 metric tons of waste, 45 percent of which is wet waste, which NEC plans to convert into compost biogas. The facilities for such conversion will be operational within two years.
Between 10 to 20 percent waste that cannot be recycled or reused, will be disposed in landfills. NEC is also constructing sanitary landfills, which are considerably smaller. In fact, when segregation begins, most landfills in the dzongkhags will be of modest size, requiring just about one acre to half an acre for disposal since there will be so little to put only the dangerous and objects cannot be reused. There are also incinerators in major cities.
He said that the cleaning initiative is not just about cleaning; it is also about teaching the community about waste management and changing the people’s mindset.
He added that plastic is a versatile material, which is why its use is growing. Fortunately, plastics can be recycled and are one of the simplest products to recycle.
“The plastic ban is misunderstood in various ways. Plastic ban of 1999 was only three items, one-time plastic carry bags, ice cream pouches, and doma wrappers, and this ban has been in place for a long time, in fact we re-enforced the ban in 2019, and we experienced problems, particularly with the single use carry bag, which is banned for import but somehow gets into the country illegally,” he added.
NEC is developing alternatives for plastics in the flagship plans.
He remarked that Bhutan could attain zero waste. “Bhutanese people are, in reality, disciplined. If we maintain this pace and hold the zero waste hour once a month, and with DeSuups cooperation, we will grow significantly. We will have three colour-coded bins in every building, and we already have drop-off centers so you won’t have to wait for the truck. Bhutan is not far away, and we shall get there eventually,” NEC Secretary remarked.
The organizations involved in this are Zero Waste Bhutan, Thimphu Dzongkhag Administration, Thimphu Thromde, Guide Association of Bhutan, Bhutan Red Cross Society, Bhutan Taxi Association, Thimphu Greening Initiative, Royal Bhutan Flower Exhibition, Royal Bhutan Army HQs, Royal Bhutan Police, BBS and Tourism Council of Bhutan.