Firms Vie to Turn Rangoon’s Waste into Power

By Naomi Gingold 10 October 2013

RANGOON — Two international companies made their cases to the Rangoon regional government Thursday, competing to lead a project to turn the city’s garbage into renewable materials.

The plan to make productive use of the city’s waste is just one element of the Yangon City Development Committee’s (YCDC) efforts to implement a more sustainable waste management program in the city.

According to city officials, Rangoon currently produces 1,600 tons of trash per day.  Although residents are known to litter, the waste that does make it onto the city’s garbage trucks heads straight for two landfill sites. Both will be full in five years, according to estimates from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

British company Organics and a consortium led by the Korea Environment Corporation (Keco), a branch of the South Korean Ministry of Environment, are in the final round to win the city’s waste management contract and on Thursday presented their bids to city officials.

Organics has plans to turn incoming garbage into bio-fuel and even electricity using a process known as anaerobic digestion. If the company is chosen, Robert Eden, managing director of Organics Asia, said that over the 20 year project term, the city’s “landfills will disappear.”

Keco’s competing plan would be to turn some landfill material into biogas.

City officials say the winner of the contract will be named in early 2014.

City Hall also plans to roll out separate trash receptacles on streets next year for recyclables (plastics, cans, plastic bottles) and organic waste. According to the Pollution Control & Cleansing Department (PCCD) at YCDC, the plan will start in three or four townships in the city’s central business district, although Rangoon Mayor Hla Myint has yet to decide exactly where and when.

A senior official at PCCD, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that “a lack of budget allocations” was constraining larger plans, but the department would also like to expand an educational program in some schools that addresses awareness of proper waste disposal and how to recycle.

In 2012, the city implemented a plan to separate dry waste into green bins and trucks and wet waste into blue. But the PCCD official acknowledged that only a small portion of residents knew about and followed the regulations. Of the garbage the city collects, only “30 percent obeys the rules and regulation, and 70 percent is mixed waste,” the official said.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency also has plans to work with YCDC to improve waste management as part of the much heralded Strategic Plan for Greater Yangon. Officials are still working out the details and no concrete plans have been announced yet.