Below are the challenges faced by the Waste Management Sector in Asia
Lack of Importance to Waste Management Practices
Last year, we have witnessed beaches like Boracay (the Philippines) and Maya Bay (Thailand) shutting on account of pollution caused by millions of sprawling tourists, wastes discharged by the beachfront hotels. These two tourist spots generate more than US$1 billion in annual revenue for the respective governments and provide employment to 36,000 people. While these shutdowns will be the first of many to follow, imagine the economic impact it will cause if more governments follow these inevitable measures to protect the environment. Clean up activities offer only a short-term solution and pose major cost challenges to the governments, especially in middle-income countries like Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand.
Instead, government and policymakers should think of long-term measures like waste management that incentivizes or enforces the waste generators to manage their plastic wastes, e-waste, and other waste more responsibly.
Lack of Incentivization
Successful waste management practices across the globe are built around incentivization. Malang, a city in Indonesia, generates 55,000 tons of wastes every day and recycles them to finance health insurance for its residents. This is indeed a win-win situation for the people, government, recyclers. In India, it is common for people, businesses to trade the wastes for cash or physical products but to make things happen on a bigger scale, the government has to draft innovative policies that reward citizens for responsibly disposing of their wastes.
Lack of Financial Resources
Waste management is an expensive service. It requires building appropriate infrastructure and scalable operations for effective implementation. Waste management is often administered by local authorities with limited resources both human capital and finances. This keeps the operational constraint for managing waste collection at scale. This is typically a problem in Asian countries where the cities are densely populated.
Lack of Actionable Data
Data is critical for policy-making and planning. Government bodies and municipalities need to know how much waste is generated, types of waste generated, volumes generated, and the location of generation. For example, geospatial data with respect to waste management can be used to design systems, plan fleet, operations, setting collection targets, measuring diversion rates and ultimately track the progress of the overall waste management process. With actionable and accurate data, governments can adopt a more pragmatic approach in allocating budgets, opting right technologies, and involving strategic partners, be it from government, private, non-profit organizations, to create maximum impact in the process.
The Future of Waste Management
As an industry that lacks a formal ecosystem, waste management is a space that is awaiting innovations. There is an imminent need for VC money, private investments to flow in and encourage innovative ideas to establish an integrated waste management system. Accenture estimates there will be a US$ 4.5 trillion global opportunity by 2030 in waste management space waiting for disruptive technologies and innovative solutions to grab a pie of it.
The primary agenda is to bridge the information gap between the waste generators, waste pickers, waste processors and tackle the demand and supply mismatch. Secondly, digital solutions that bring transparency, traceability, and accountability to all the stakeholders are the need of the hour. These solutions not only streamline the operations but also provide valuable insights into waste generation and the effect to which it is managed efficiently, thus bringing in a data-centric approach and measurability to the industry.
(Article originally published in ‘Entrepreneur Asia Pacific Edition’)