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Urban Organic Waste : Could we manage it better ?
NIBM initiates an Ideas Space for Business Intelligence at the National Innovation Centre (NIC)

The National Institute for Business Management (NIBM), initiated its “Ideas Space” for Business Intelligence, with a discussion workshop on  the topic of “Urban Organic Waste – could we manage better” which was held on 01st March 2019 at its National Innovation Centre, with the participation of Hon. Champika Ranawake, Minister for Megapolis and Western Development as the Chief Guest.


The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) was a valued partner in conceptualizing the workshop content and was  well represented at the workshop with the participation of its senior officials,


The Chairman NIBM, Mr. Rohan Prithiviriaj Perera in his welcoming address, stressed on the importance of preserving the environment which is a limited resource that should also be safeguarded for the use of the future generations to come. He opined that  there will always be limitations, wherever  the waste is disposed of and the environmental issues should be looked at holistically, covering the Wetlands ecosystems, particularly at a time when Colombo has been identified as a “ Ramsars Wetland City. The importance of the oceans should also not be forgotten, given that 71% of the Worlds surface comprise the Oceans and Sri Lanka is an island nation covered by the ocean. Degradation of the environment through mismanagement of waste disposal also contributes to the spread of disease. Therefore all stakeholders should be working closely together to find solutions to issues that beset the environment. He posed the following questions ;

  • What is the potential for entrepreneurs to turn the “Waste burden” into an investment and how should we attract more stakeholders to invest into solutions ?
  • Are investments into food waste reduction only a CSR objective, or, could it be a revenue generator ?
  • How could “data analytics “be used to find solutions at the micro levels, identifying the major sources of waste generation, their disposal mechanisms and the monitoring of the carrying capacity and limits of the disposal sites ?

The Minister for Megapolis & Western Development,Hon. Champika Ranawake, clearly explained the steps taken to address the issues of Waste Management, where a majority of the waste stems from the Western Province and particularly from the Colombo District.  He outlined the various steps taken to address the issues of waste since the “Meethotamulla Collapse” initially by way of a  temporary solution at a site close to the “Muturajawela Marsh” and a longer term solution has new been arranged at the “Aruwakkalu Sanitary Land Fill” in the Puttalam District.  He also mentioned the delays and difficulties in finding suitable waste disposal sites due to unfair political interferences in respective districts.  The major solution lie in the reduction and proper recovery, reuse and recycling of waste, for which adequate incentives and strict rules with fines have been imposed on those recovering and disposing waste without proper sorting.  He was also of the view that the “Waste to Energy”  investments may not necessarily be affordable for a country like Sri Lanka, where the moisture content of waste is high and consequently, costs of conversions also become high, putting it beyond the reach of the average consumer.


Dr. Pay Dreschel, Environmental Scientist & Expert in the field and Dr. Miriam Ottoo, Agricultural Economist & Expert in Carbon Nutrient Recovery for Agriculture from the  International Water Management Institute (IWMS) took the meeting through the challenges and possible solutions for “Urban Waste” and focused on the methods for resource recovery and re-use and on how to ensure proper disposal of the waste.


Dr. Sujatha Gamage from LIRNE Asia, made a presentation on “Economic Incentives and the missing elements in Solid Waste Management”. She spoke of “Education and Training to spread the concept of Recovery, Reuse and Recycling”, including provision of NVQ certification for solid waste workers as one option.  The commanding and controlling by way of orders to prohibit through gazetted regulations against the manufacture of polythene products, lunch sheets, grocery bags of high density, use of polythene products for decorations and food containers, plates, cups and spoons from expanded polystyrene and providing incentives to receive money for recyclables was the second option.  A value chain approach, beginning with the producers of goods and services, distributors, consumers and waste managers going up to the final disposal sites and to irregular dumping sites, also including the oceans, should be followed up, by way of analytical approaches to finding solutions.


An ensuing panel discussions co-chaired by Mr. R.P. Perera, Chairman, NIBM and Dr. Pay Dreschel, Environmental Expert from IWMI, elicited the following proposals from the panelists. They were as follows ;


Mr. Dhanujie Jayapala, Manager – Environmental Sustainablity, MAS Capital Ltd., Informed the meeting of the steps taken by MAS Capital (Pvt) Ltd, to clean and minimize sea beach damage in partnership with the Sri Lanka Navy and by recycling the waste collected from the beach and the Ocean and converting some of it to yarn and to fabric. 


The common ocean debris comprises plastic & glass bottles, grocery bags, disposable diapers, cardboard, rig foam &  aluminum  cans.  The highest amount coastal waste comes from Crow Island, Mirissa, Nainativu, Galle, Hikkaduwa & Trincomalee in descending order.  Investments have also been made to reduce in-house waste at MAS capital limited.


Mr. Milinda Rajapaksha, Councillor, CMC, informed the meeting that the garbage from people coming from outside the city contributes a lot to the waste.  By imposing fines through laws and segregation  of waste, CMC has succeeded in the reducing waste from 800 tons per day to 650 tons per day and that 80% of the Colombo waste is bio-degradable.  Three days of the week are allocated to clear such waste, with two days being allocated  to clear sanitary waste, whilst the biggest problem is the electronic waste. In general, the segregation is not easy in the impoverished areas.  The CMC stands ready to pay the private sector and NGO’s to help in the recovery, segregation and reuse of waste, as also to have partnerships with specialized institutions like NIBM to find solutions through Data Analytics.


Mr. Nimal Prematilleka, Specialist in Solid Waste Management from the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development alluded that Colombo now accounts for 80% of the segregated polythene , plastic Waste and the new “Port City” site is also generating a sizeable proportion of waste.  It was also mentioned there could be 09 categories of segregated waste, although the poorer sections of the society will find it difficult to do the sorting.  Specialized Centers for sorting have now been commenced by the Ministry.


Ms. Savera Weerasinghe, a Community Activist suggested the simplifying and providing of attractive incentives for composting and for bringing out end products out of waste and to encourage the creation of demand for the end products.


The numerous options available for Waste Management were thus adequately brought to focus.  It is now left to the concerned stakeholders to continue to take action as appropriate.  The NIBM stands ready to help stakeholders to find solutions through the use of data analytics and hopes to extend similar initiatives through the National Innovations Centre, to help address other issues that beset the nation, like agriculture, transport, disaster risk reduction and management etc to other issues that also beset the corporate sector, with regard to predictions and trends in business undertaking.