Fast industrialisation, urbanisation, enhanced consumerism and rise in standards of living is causing generation of large quantities of waste which needs to be stored, transported, treated and disposed. Globally, municipal and urban governments are spending huge financial and human resources on waste management but the service coverage is barely coinciding with the generated waste quantities as overflowing communal containers and waste heaps are amply witnessed in all major urban centres.
The worldwide quantities of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) are rapidly increasing. It is estimated that around 2.5 billion MT of MSW was generated worldwide in 2000, which is expected to reach 5.3bn MT by 2030. The solid waste generation rate of Bahrain and GCC countries is very high varying from 470 to 700 Kg/capita/year.
MSW consists of domestic waste from residential areas, commercial wastes from markets and commercial centers and institutional waste generated from offices, educational institutes etc., construction waste, garden waste and animal carcasses. The waste is either stored in 200 liter plastic bins or 1100 liters metallic bins from where it is emptied into compactors and trucks and transported to the landfill site for disposal. The waste at the landfill site is compacted and covered with sand to avoid any pollution.
It is estimated that over 4,000 tons per day of MSW is being generated in Bahrain which is being collected from the five governorates by private contractors who transport these wastes to the Asker municipal landfill site located some 25 km away from the city centre in quarry areas.
The broad categories of MSW are biodegradable waste (food and kitchen waste, green waste etc.), Recyclables (paper, glass, bottles, cans, metals, certain plastics etc.), Inert waste (construction and demolition waste, street sweepings, litter, dirt, soil, debris etc.), Composite wastes (waste clothing, Tetra Packs, waste plastics such as toys) and domestic hazardous waste.
MSW generation and its management involves severe health risks and impacts including decomposition and biodegradation of waste due to high temperatures causing obnoxious odours, proliferation of insects and rodents, occurrences of unwanted major and minor fires, contamination of soil and water by leachate generated from the landfills, emissions of toxic gases from waste disposal, burning and incineration.
MSW also contribute to climate change primarily because of methane and carbon dioxide gas emissions. Impacts on terrestrial and marine ecology, traffic generation, road congestion, accidents, dust and noise generation, nuisance, bird hazards, occupational health hazards, litter generation and spreading, impairment of area aesthetics are other serious impacts. Unattended waste attracts flies, rats, and other vermin’s that in turn spread diseases.
We need to understand that the problem of MSW cannot be solved by the governmental authorities alone. We need to equally share the burden in reducing the quantities of waste, storing all garbage generated in containers, segregating waste to assist recycling activities and spreading the message of having environmental friendly waste management. Public awareness and change of attitudes towards waste are required as it affect the population’s willingness to cooperate and participate in practicing efficient waste management practices.
Source reduction is a successful method of reducing waste generation. Practices such as grass recycling, backyard composting can yield substantial benefits. It prevents emissions of many greenhouse gases, reduces pollutants, saves energy, conserves resources and reduces the need for new landfills.