Today, Kathmandu creates over 1000 tons of waste per day that is dumped into landfills around the valley. A large portion of that waste is also being burned. Right now, waste management does not really exist in Nepal. Only waste disposal does.
Given the current situation of waste, the practice of recycling is very inconsistent. Today, informal market forces, and invisible rag pickers scavenging bins, streets and landfills looking for valuable materials largely drive recycling activities in Nepal. As a result, most items that can be recycled, like single-use plastics, are not being recycled as they yield low monetary value from recycling plants. Our consumption habits as a community support a linear economy: we make, take, and then dispose. Waste is a valuable resource that we have not been able to recognise yet. We need to shift towards a circular economy as a community, and start viewing waste as a resource bringing use to discarded items through reuse, recycling, upcycling, and refurbishing.
To achieve this, Doko Recyclers, a waste management company based in Kathmandu, believes that segregating at source is the key. If waste is not separated at source, then expecting segregation of recyclables from non-recyclables at a centralised waste disposal area is not realistic.
Doko Recyclers works with institutions and households across Kathmandu to assist them with the right set up and the training required for segregation at source. Once they collect the segregated waste from you, they process it further and then send it to recycling plants across Nepal. They also provide waste awareness workshops to institutions. Representatives from Doko Recyclers visit schools, offices, restaurants, hotels, etc. to train the staff on the importance of recycling and the steps to set up a waste segregation system at their premises. Schools often bring their students Doko’s Materials Recovery Facility at Sano Thimi for a comprehensive tour. Doko has designed a half-day curriculum to educate students on the current situation of waste in Nepal and steps people can take to contribute towards developing sustainably.
Doko Recyclers is making a noticeable impact in the local waste management sector. Pankaj Panjiyar, Doko’s Chief Operations Officer, says, “When operations began in July 2017, we collected 15kgs of recyclable waste from partners every day. Today, we have expanded to partner with over 120 institutions and over 3,500 households, collecting 1,500kgs of recyclable waste per day. When we first started, Doko Recyclers had six employees. Today, we are a team of 35, with over 50% being female. Working in the waste management sector is not perceived as a desirable occupation. Doko Recyclers aims to change that perspective, and we are working towards increasing local employment in the waste sector.”
In addition to implementing segregation at source and collecting recyclable materials from around the city, Doko Recyclers has been exploring different opportunities to make Kathmandu more sustainable.
The piles of trash around us are a daily reminder that we can do better for our communities, health, environment, economy and future simply by being sustainability conscious. Doko Recyclers developed their service model understanding that Nepal already has a culture of buying and selling recyclables like paper, bottles and scrap metal parts. The challenge is expanding this understanding to include other materials, relay the environmental impacts of dumping in landfills, and why we must focus on conserving raw resources rather than extracting them. In doing so, Doko aims to bring about behaviour change in how and what we consume by reducing, reusing, repairing, repurposing, rotting, and recycling.
So, Doko implements methods to help you segregate your waste at its source into different categories before it enters the waste stream. Once it enters the waste stream, Doko continues to separate into different recyclable categories ensuring that the right materials make to the right industries that then extract and reuse existing resources from that waste to create new goods. Doko’s shredding, e-waste, and composting services in addition to their waste pick ups, awareness trainings, waste segregation infrastructure setup all allow you to do this instinctively in your homes and offices.
Corporations often implement Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects meant to benefit society in various ways. Shivani Saria, Doko’s Chief Communications Officer, says, “We have noticed an encouraging trend with institutions implementing CSR projects recently. We are involved with several institutions on a consulting capacity to recommend and implement potential projects that are focused towards environmental wellness and sustainable development. Corporations can reach out to us if they wish to implement a CSR project in Nepal.”
People mostly associate recycling with plastics, papers and glass. But one significant resource many aren’t aware can be recycled is electronic waste, or e-waste. Anything that can be plugged in or run on a battery is considered to be e-waste. Today, a majority of e-waste generated in Nepal is being dumped into landfills. This is extremely hazardous as not only does e-waste not decompose, but many components used to build a lot of the devices are toxic (ex. lithium ion batteries.) Once in landfills, these toxins spread to our soil, water, and air, causing damage to our health and the health of the ecosystem. In an attempt to reduce this spread of toxins, Doko Recyclers decided to professionally handle and deal with e-waste. Their goal is to raise awareness and educate people on the importance of recycling their e-waste.
Following that, Doko launched www.ewastenepal.com, their online platform for e-waste. If you have any e-waste that you would like to dispose responsibly, or want to learn more about e-waste in Nepal and the world, visit their e-waste website.
Not every item that is recyclable can be recycled in Nepal. Glass, for example, cannot be recycled as there are no recycling plants for glass in Nepal. Aside from a few exceptions like locally produced beer bottles which can be reused by bottling companies by cleaning and reintroducing them to the market, most other types of glass are sent to landfills. Recognising this problem, Doko Recyclers created Tatwa, an up-cycling venture to creatively repurpose waste that cannot be recycled. Tatwa is a collection of up-cycled products (mostly made out of imported glass bottles that cannot be recycled), from lamps, cups, toothpick holders, to bedside tumblers and spice containers. Tatwa is one example of Doko’s attempt to showcase waste as a valuable resource.
Almost two thirds of waste generated in an average household in Kathmandu is organic food waste. Many of Doko’s household clients were asking for more sustainable alternatives for dealing with organic waste. So, in May 2019, in collaboration with BioComp Nepal, Doko launched the Smart Bucket, a simple home composting system. This system is designed for a family of four to five. When you generate organic waste, all you need to do is add it to the bucket instead of sending it to landfills. Add some decomposer (included in the kit) occasionally, and you will have homemade, organic compost to use for your garden!
Doko believes that because the simple act of segregation can tremendously reduce landfill impact, it should be a mandatory act at an individual, household, and business level. In order to achieve this, Doko developed their model and services to offer a series of waste management solutions that enable you to easily practice Smart Sustainability and support a growing green and sustainable circular economy.
To conclude, Raghavendra Mahto, Co-founder of Doko Recyclers, says, “We learn and grow more everyday and aim to make a bigger impact towards sustainable development in Nepal. We need to raise awareness of the importance of recycling as a community, and that starts with each individual being conscious of the waste they generate and dispose. You have helped us raise awareness these past two years, and we thank you for that. Let’s work together to spread the word even further and louder in order to make our city and country clean and sustainable.”