Author: Shadaf Rahman, Department of Environmental Science, B.Sc., North South University – Dhaka.

Edited By: Kasheful Hoda; Tunazzina Iqbal

Published Under: Research Initiative for Social Equity, Society (RISE Society)

Open Roadside Waste Rotting Under the Open Sky in Dhaka.

Open Roadside Waste Rotting Under the Open Sky in Dhaka.

Young minds of Dhaka, increasingly aware of sanitation and hygiene, want to confront the monster which seems so hard to manage – URBAN WASTE. It creates stench, shame, disease and distaste, but it still remains with us on every neighborhood live in.  When a young student of one of Dhaka’s premier Universities wanted to share with us her discovery of the story of this irresponsible mess that the community and its guardians are responsible for … we knew there were others who could benefit from her observations. It is a glimpse of the decaying, and openly rotting, distressing and dismaying everyday reality which still plagues Dhaka City – like a menacing nightmare.

RISE Society.


A Brief First Look

Due to rapid growth of population it has become a viable option for the people of our countries to live in high rise buildings. Greater number of people living per unit area has resulted in subsequent increase in municipal waste generation in the same amount of area. Consequently giving rise to problems of waste disposal which has adversely affected both human health and the environment. Waste management is not given sufficient importance by different authorities and local people of our country. As a result there are inadequate management facilities of waste in high rise buildings. The objective of the study is to identify the problems of waste management in high-rise buildings, identify the root causes and to look for a probable solution of the problems currently faced. The problems can be obscured by strengthening of relevant authorities of waste management and raising awareness among the local people.

Everyday reality for Dhaka Dwellers: Cover the Nose to avoid the Stench.

Everyday reality for Dhaka Dwellers: Cover the Nose to avoid the Stench.



The Broader Scenario


Bangladesh is the ninth most populous country and twelfth most densely populated countries in the world. In particular, the projected urban population growth rate from 2010 – 2015 is 3%.(Source: UNdata. (2012). Country profile: Bangladesh). With this population growth, there is an increasing problem of waste management particularly in the larger cities. Currently, according to an UNFPA report, Dhaka is one of the most polluted cities in the world and one of the issues concerned is the management of municipal waste. Waste disposal in tall buildings poses its own unique set of challenges. High Rise buildings are popular for their ability to house a higher population in a smaller amount of ground floor space. This high population density is typically accompanied by larger volumes of waste. The unique designs of high rise properties can also pose a challenge. Regardless of the design, space is always a significant concern, and is often very limited in these tall buildings. Waste collection and management is very poor in all buildings especially high rise buildings of our country. There are no bins or collectors in any part of the building, urging people to litter everywhere. As long as people can get rid of their daily production of waste, they do not feel the need to look into issues of environmental or health influences, drawbacks of current management techniques. People have no idea about separation of waste according to components of waste like hazardous compounds, organic and inorganic compounds etc. Wastes are stored in inappropriate places and handled and transported unsuitably. Municipality, Pourshava and other relevant authorities of waste management are reluctant in fulfilling their duties. The builders’ urge to rise to dizzying heights is limited by unsolved technical problems. A prestige objects for the builder, these edifices not only have an effect on their immediate neighbors, but also influence many areas of urban life in very different ways. Proper waste disposal equipment must not only meet all these constraints, it must also be cost effective, reliable, free up space, and provide a clean and systematic approach to building waste management.




Approach To Find an Answer


The survey was done in one month time. A group of four members, three females and one male, conducted the survey. Our focus was the people of Shantinagar, Dhaka. Our research concentration was the people living in high rise buildings and facing severe problems every day in propoerly disposing the waste generated. Ten high rise buildings were selected. The people were questioned about their daily problems regarding disposal of waste and their views of the core reasons of the problem and possible solutions. The survey was carried out by using both questionnaire and in-depth interviews. About 20 questionnaires were distributed among randomly selected people in places where people from many socioeconomic backgrounds accumulate. Both males and females were interviewed, so that we can get unbiased information. 8 in-depth interviews were done and the number of males and females were kept equal in number. The participants were interviewed by the researchers of the same gender so that participants did not feel intimidated by the researchers. The interviews were done in secure places where the interviewees did not have any fear of their information being leaked out and their identities being known.


Overview of waste management in developed countries


Every year about 2 billion tonnes of waste are produced in the EU. The wealthier the European Union becomes, the more waste it generates, this is the reason for its ambitious aims to face this problem. The European Union’s approach to waste management is based on three principles:

  • Waste prevention: This is a key factor in any waste management strategy and it is closely linked with improving manufacturing methods and influencing consumers to demand greener products and less packaging.
  • Recycling and reuse: The European Commission has defined several specific ‘waste streams’ for priority attention, the aim being to reduce their overall environmental impact. This includes packaging waste, end-of-life vehicles, and batteries, electrical and electronic waste.
  • Improving final disposal and monitoring: The EU has recently approved a directive setting strict guidelines for landfill management. It bans certain types of waste, such as used tires, and sets targets for reducing quantities of biodegradable rubbish. The Union also wants to reduce emissions of dioxins and acid gases such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides, and hydrogen chlorides, which can be harmful to human health1. Each Member State is required to build its own disposal capacities by the establishment of a system of national treatment facilities.

The best solution is for the EU is to prevent the production of such waste, reintroducing it into the product cycle by recycling its components where there are ecologically and economically viable methods of doing so. In this regard, one key principle guiding policy-making process is “Producer Responsibility”, in which producers have to take responsibility for their products throughout their complete life cycle.

  • Some of Waste Management policies are:
    • The Landfill Levy: This policy was introduced to encourage the diversion of waste away from landfill and generate revenues that can be applied in support of waste minimization and recycling initiatives.
    • The Circular WPPR: This policy pretends reduce the quantity of biodegradable waste sent to landfill set and helps.
    • The Directive of waste: This Directive establishes a legal framework for the treatment of waste within the Community. It aims at protecting the environment and human health through the prevention of the harmful effects of waste generation and waste management.

Europe has as a framework for coordinating waste management in the Member States in order to limit the generation of waste and to optimize the organization of waste treatment and disposal.


Germany is a good example in the use of waste issues, because German waste management is an important industrial sector and provides high-quality technology for the efficient use of waste as a resource and the environmentally sound disposal of the remaining residual waste. This country base all its waste management in the principle “Avoidance, recovery and disposal” and product responsibility as the heart of waste management policy. The government wants to develop waste and closed cycle management into a sustainable resource-efficient materials flow management over the next years. Also it pretends to use innovative waste concepts for responsible resource management climate protection.

In general it can be said that any producer or holder of waste must carry out their treatment themselves or by a broker. Member States may cooperate, if necessary, to establish a network of waste disposal facilities. Dangerous waste must be stored and treated in conditions that ensure the protection of health and the environment. They must not, in any case be mixed with other dangerous waste and must be packaged or labeled in line with international or Community regulations. This policies help to achieve the EU objectives, such as minimization of waste materials and household waste generated, and an increase in the amounts being recycled with the aim of materials and energy recovery.


Most of the companies in Australia offering waste management are members of the Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA). The Biohazard Waste Industry Australia and New Zealand (BWI) (formerly ANZCWMIG) is one of the divisions of the WMAA.

Waste management policies also take into consideration OHS legislation, Australian Standards and the requirements of state and territory Environment Protection Authorities. They also have to follow “Extended Producer Responsibility” philosophy.

  • Principles:

Waste management policy should adopt a zero waste goal to conserve natural resources for future generations, avoid the buildup of toxic and noxious substances, conserve water and achieve deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Reducing, reusing and recycling are integral to achieving zero waste.
  • Full social, environmental and economic costs must be taken into account in decisions about creating, managing and disposing of waste.
  • The transportation of hazardous waste must be minimized, and the Australian community must be fully informed about its location, disposal and transportation.


  • Policies:

National Waste Policy: Less waste, more resources which has been described as the most advanced policy in Australia. This policy establishes a comprehensive work program for national coordinated action on waste across six key areas: Reducing hazard and risk, Tailoring solutions, providing the evidence, Taking responsibility, Improving the market, Pursuing sustainability.

National Waste Policy sets the direction for Australia over the next 10 years to produce less waste for disposal and manage waste as a resource to deliver economic, environmental and social benefits. And also this policy heralds a new, coherent, efficient and environmentally responsible approach to waste management in Australia.


Developed countries are good examples to developing places, and all of this has similarities in the purpose of its policies, it is interesting to see that Europe is looking for “the best” policy mix, and as Europe and the other developed countries are working in a similar way, with the purpose of the achieving of its goals and building a better world by taking care of the environment.


Overview of waste management in Bangladesh

There is an increasing rate of waste generation in Bangladesh and it is projected to reach 47, 064 tonnes per day by 2025(Source: Alamgir M. & Ahsan. A. (2007). Municipal Solid Waste and Recovery Potential: Bangladesh Perspective. Iran. J. Environ. Health. Sci. Eng., 2007, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp 67 – 76). The Waste Generation Rate (kg/cap/day) is expected to increase to 0.6 in 2025 (Source: Alamgir M. & Ahsan. A. (2007). Municipal Solid Waste and Recovery Potential: Bangladesh Perspective. Iran. J. Environ. Health. Sci. Eng., 2007, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp 67 – 76). A significant percentage of the population has zero access to proper waste disposal services, which will in effect lead to the problem of waste mismanagement. The total waste collection rate in major cities of Bangladesh such as Dhaka is only 37% (Source: Enayetullah & S. S. A. Khan & A. H. Md. M. Sinha (2005). Urban Solid Waste Management. Scenario of Bangladesh: Problems and Prospects. Waste Concern Technical Documentation). When waste is not properly collected, it is illegally disposed of and this will pose serious environmental and health hazards to the Bangladeshis. Due to the lack of funding, there are also insufficient subsidies put in place for the issue of waste management in Bangladesh. Hence, there are essentially no proper disposal facilities to cater to the rapid creation of waste. Bangladesh has minimal waste collection coverage which forces majority of the waste to be dumped in open lands. These wastes are not disposed of properly, where general waste is often mixed with hazardous waste such as hospital waste. In a report on solid waste management in Asia, the data showed that, in Dhaka, only about 42% of generated waste is collected and dumped at landfill sites, and the rest are left uncollected (Source: Bhuiya. G. M. J. A (2007). 1. Bangladesh. Solid Waste Management: Issues and Challenges in Asia, pg 28-32). As much as 400 tons are dumped on the roadside and in open space (Source: Ahmed M. B. &Zerin. S. A. (2009). Hospital Waste Management in Dhaka: A Threat). As such, this improperly disposed waste poses serious health implications to the people where it may have the potential of transmitting diseases.There have been recent developments in Bangladesh to improve waste management, especially in urban cities. In Dhaka, Dhaka City Corporation with support from the Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA) has a master plan underway to better handle the solid waste management in Dhaka. For instance, Social Business Enterprise Waste Concern has sprung up to tackle the municipal waste accumulation problem through working with the households. UNICEF has also initiated recycling programs and waste control with the city corporations and municipalities. However, currently, there are still insufficient incentives to improve the standard of waste management across all relevant sectors.

The Discovery:

  • Types of waste generated:
  1. Food waste: Bones, vegetable peel, egg shell, tea leaker, wasted food, rotten food,
  2. Plastic buckets and packaging: water bottle, chocolate wrapper, polythene bags,

iii.        Plastic items: Plastic buckets, baskets, bottles, plastic containers

  1. Non-durable consumer waste: Newspaper, cloths pieces,
  2. Durable consumer waste: Furniture and home appliances and gadgets.
  • Present scenario
  1. Primary Collection
  2. Waste handling at the source: Different kinds of containers are used to segregate the house hold waste.




Figure 1. Types of container used

Through the survey it was found out the types of containers each household use. 45% of the total residents surveyed use both bucket and basket to gather waste. 5% waste is stored in packets for disposal and 25% of total waste is kept in a basket. The remaining 25% of total waste is disposed in a bucket.


Figure 2.Usages for separate containers to segregate waste.

Survey shows Kitchen waste (organic) 20% of the total waste is kept in either plastic bucket or baskets while inorganic waste is kept in separate baskets. No separate container is used for 40% of the total waste. Only 5% of the surveyed residents separate hazardous for non-hazardous waste. While 35% of the total people surveyed uses separate containers for organic, inorganic and hazardous waste.

For the benefit of the waste handler all the waste is mixed in separate plastic bucket. A polythene bag is used as a layer on the bucket. The bucket is placed near the entrance of each house. The waste is generated highest on the weekends.

  1. Door to door collection service: The survey depicts the collection of wastes from each house from 2pm by the sweeper. At the time of waste collection, the waste handler collects the waste using the polythene bag and leaves an empty bucket for the next day. The apartment committee pays their respective sweeper taka 4000 BDT per month for their services.


Figure 3.Placement of kitchen waste containers.

The survey shows that 35% of the total residents use veranda to keep their containers, while 60 % of the total people surveyed use kitchen to keep their container. Only 5% of residents surveyed use both kitchen and veranda to place their waste containers.

iii.        Storage of dustbins: The waste from the polythene bag is then transferred to a drum. The apartment lift is used to bring the drum to the storage area. According to all respondents, specific area of each apartment garage is used as the storage area for the household waste. No special and equipped central storage location of waste within each floor or building is present. The storage area is the origin of odor problem.


Figure 4.Problem of storage of drums in house premise.

Storage of dustbins causes problems of various natures, odor problem being the most severe one. Nine tenth of the problems can be attributed to odor problem, while the remaining fraction can be attributed to dirtiness of the place.

Secondary Waste Collection:

The drums are transferred from the storage area to the dustbin with the help of a cart. Survey demonstrated that in most cases the sweepers walk to the waste dumping zone to empty the drums by dumping the waste.



Figure 5.Problems regarding transportation of waste.

The survey depicted while the waste is transported only odor problem (75%) is of the highest concern. One tenth of the problem is attributed to only dirtiness. The last remaining 15% is attributed to both odor problem and dirtiness.

  • Final Disposal:

According to the survey, Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) appointed sweepers clean the adjacent areas of the waste collection zones. He handpicks the waste from the ground and transfers the collected waste to open dumps or municipal dustbins.

A truck collects the waste from the dustbin around the time of midnight to transport it to a landfill located at Jurain.


Committee                           DCC

Fig: 6 Route of waste transport



  • Recycling:

Informal recycling of inorganic waste is practiced on a small scale at the site of the dustbin. Waste handlers segregate inorganic waste from the organic waste. The inorganic waste is then sold at the informal market. Per kg paper is sold at taka 2 BDT while per kg plastics and glass containers are sold at taka 40 BDT. At the process of segregation no protective gears are being used.


  • Case Study 1:

A housewife named Tamanna Bipasha uses both buckets and baskets for waste storage. She uses separate bucket only for the kitchen waste storage and keeps it in the kitchen. She is residing in the 9th floor of the apartment which makes it almost impossible for her to throw the waste by herself in the dustbin. She does not perform any separation of different types of waste. She receives door-to-door waste collection system where the committee appointed sweeper collects the waste. The waste container is kept near the entrance that creates odor problem in the staircase. Currently she is paying 100BDT per month for the service. She is satisfied with service provided by the DCC.

  • Case Study 2:

A businessman named Asad Bhuiya owner of the Alamin Tower uses only buckets for waste collection and he does not do any waste segregation. The DCC appointed man collects the waste directly from his house and so he sometimes faces odor problem. He pays 120 BDT per month for the service charge. According to him, he strictly maintains the hygiene of the building as the owner of the apartment. He is quite satisfied with the service provided by the DCC.



Figure 6. Level of satisfaction of the residents by the service of DCC

According to the survey approximately 40% of the dwellers are satisfied with the DCC service while the rest 60% are dissatisfied.

The Challenges

Only a proportion of population was surveyed because of time limitation and expanse. The information gathered may not be representative of the entire population scenario.

Some interviewees were intimated by presence of a researcher.

The research design was not intended to produce results that account for or predict the behavior of a wide classification of people as most experimental, hypothesis-testing studies are.


In Bangladesh 0.5 kg per capita waste is generated per day (Source: Alamgir M. & Ahsan. A. (2007). Municipal Solid Waste and Recovery Potential: Bangladesh Perspective. Iran. J. Environ. Health. Sci. Eng., 2007, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp 67 – 76). This means 16,382 tonnes of waste are generated every day (Source: Alamgir M. & Ahsan. A. (2007). Municipal Solid Waste and Recovery Potential: Bangladesh Perspective. Iran. J. Environ. Health. Sci. Eng., 2007, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp 67 – 76). The waste generated is inadequately managed and disposed. Almost none of the high rise buildings have an attired system of waste collection. There are no chute systems or special elevators for carrying waste within the building, no common space for storage of daily waste in each building. People are not familiar with idea of recycling of and recovering from waste materials. Waste materials are not separated in terms of its organic or components. People sometimes mix municipal wastes, which have the potential to be used as raw materials or be recycled, with health care and hazardous wastes like broken thermometers, expired medicines and what not. These non-separated wastes are not even separated by waste collectors. Waste collection system is very traditional in our country with majority of the houses receiving door-to-door waste collection services or servants taking the daily waste to sweepers or waste collectors for it to be taken by municipality. Waste collectors do not take the help of protective devices during handling of waste. The waste collectors are not paid sufficiently for their services. Neither the local people nor the waste collectors are completely satisfied with the current waste management systems of our country. People are unaware of the adverse impacts of improper dumping and mismanagement waste. Presently, the solid waste management system in Bangladesh in not well organized. However, efforts are under way to improve the organizational structure for solid waste management indifferent cities/towns. For instance, Dhaka City Corporation has recently established a Solid Waste Management Cell to improve the waste management services in the city. In most of the city corporations and municipalities there is no separate department for solid waste management. Solid waste management is organized and run by conservancy section of the urban local bodies, whose prime responsibility is maintenance of the sanitation system. Therefore the deficits of waste management are a combination of liabilities of the local people and the waste management workers and relevant authorities.


Some Ideas for a Change

Considerable care and considerations need to be given to designing a waste management system for high-rise buildings. Due to the large amount of material generated, poor design decisions can have serious repercussions on the management of the building throughout its lifetime. It is essential to provide, at appropriate locations in the building, sufficient space to store all garbage and recycling likely to be generated in the period between collection days and the equipment used to manage and store it. There may be more than one storage point. Consideration needs to be given to how the bins are to be emptied and how much room will be required to maneuver the bins to where they will be emptied. Some possible solutions for waste management in high-rise buildings of our country are discussed below:

Provision of room for interim storage of garbage and recyclables on each floor in an interim storage area. A caretaker should take garbage and recyclables from the interim storage area to a communal storage area. Within the communal storage area, garbage and recycling may be stored in either bulk bins.

Installation of a chute system for garbage that leads to a central garbage room at the bottom of the building. The chute can empty into either a bulk bin. This is the conveyance system of a high-rise building for the waste recycling in developed countries (Japanese Advanced Environment Equipment.2002.). The garbage segregated and collected on each floor is packed up and encapsulated with a plastic bag by each garbage kind, conveyed in the garbage storage room of the ground / underground floor by vertical chute, sorted automatically for each kind and stored.

Good market for recyclable items should be emphasized so that people can make a fortune by selling recyclable materials which will lure them to separate waste before disposal.

Enough documents are not present on waste management deficits and requirements to establish a sound system of waste management. A survey should be conducted on Willingness To Pay (WTP) and Affordability To Pay (ATP) of the residents of high-rise buildings in order to raise funds for providing bins in right places of the buildings and common waste storage places or the existing high rise buildings.

Awareness campaigns can be done to persuade people about the adverse impacts of mismanagement of waste and to make people put effort in waste separation and proper disposal of waste and the importance of recycling if waste.

There is no adequate legislation in the country to address the growing problems of solid waste. In Bangladesh, solid waste management is entrusted with local government bodies. The responsibilities of removal and disposal of municipal solid waste lies within the City Corporation and municipalities. The six City Corporation Ordinances and Pourshava Ordinance 1977 are the only local law that gives some idea about disposal of municipal waste. These ordinances contain identical provisions relating to solid waste management. The local government frame work affairs for waste management are currently in inadequate practice and their strengthening should be given outmost importance.




UNdata. (2012). Country profile: Bangladesh.

Retrieved from http://data.un.org/CountryProfile.aspx?crName=Bangladesh

Bhuiya. G. M. J. A (2007). 1. Bangladesh. Solid Waste Management: Issues and Challenges in Asia, pg 29. Retrieved fromhttp://www.apo-tokyo.org/publications/files/ind-22-swm.pdf

Alamgir M. & Ahsan.A. (2007). Municipal Solid Waste and Recovery Potential: Bangladesh Perspective. Iran. J. Environ. Health. Sci. Eng., 2007, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp 67 – 76. Retrieved fromhttp://journals.tums.ac.ir/upload_files/pdf/_/3744.pdf

Enayetullah& S. S. A. Khan & A. H. Md. M. Sinha (2005). Urban Solid Waste Management. Scenario of Bangladesh: Problems and Prospects. Waste Concern Technical Documentation. Retrieved fromhttp://www.wasteconcern.org/Publication/Waste%20Survey_05.pdf

Enayetullah.I.(2006). Community Based Solid Waste Management Through Public-Private-Community Partnerships: Experience of Waste Concern in Bangladesh. Retrieved fromhttp://www.env.go.jp/recycle/3r/en/asia/02_03-3/06.pdf

Bhuiya. G. M. J. A (2007). 1. Bangladesh. Solid Waste Management: Issues and Challenges in Asia, pg 28-32. Retrieved fromhttp://www.apo-tokyo.org/publications/files/ind-22-swm.pdf

Ahmed M. B. &Zerin. S. A. (2009). Hospital Waste Management in Dhaka: A Threat.Retrieved fromhttp://www.bdresearchpublications.com/admin/journal/upload/08102/08102.pdf

Memon. M. A. (2002). Solid Waste Management in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Innovation in Community driven Composting.

Retrieved fromhttp://kitakyushu.iges.or.jp/docs/demo/dhaka_bangladesh/spdhaka.pdf

Bhuiya. G. M. J. A (2007). 1. Bangladesh. Solid Waste Management: Issues and Challenges in Asia, pg 30. Retrieved fromhttp://www.apo-tokyo.org/publications/files/ind-22-swm.pdf

Waste Concern, Department of Environment.(2004). Country Paper Bangladesh. Retrieved fromhttp://www.wasteconcern.org/Publication/SAARC%20Country%20Paper_Banglaadesh.pdf

Japanese Advanced Environment Ewuipment.2002: Waste Management in High-Rise buildings. Retrieved from http://www.gec.jp/JSIM_DATA/WASTE/WASTE_1/html/Doc_348.html

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Posted in The Big Sky
  1. Jan Coenen says:

    a better organic waste policy is no longer a matter of costly investments but of a good organisation and an appropriate techology

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