UNDP urges compost of organic waste

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A woman uses kitchen leftovers as compost in Prek Leap commune of Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changvar district on Thursday. Hong Menea

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) urges families and businesses to use organic waste as compost and avoid dumping it in landfills which creates greenhouse gases that harm the environment and the planet.

The UNDP said last week that most of Cambodia’s urban waste is organic and forms a potent greenhouse gas called methane when accumulating in landfills.

“One of the solutions that businesses can help with is by composting organic waste. Start now!” it said in a statement.

Sonali Dayaratne, UNDP’s officer-in-charge, said over 50 per cent of waste in Cambodia is organic. If all of that organic waste is just taken to the new landfills now being built or planned, it will fill them up very quickly.

She said that by using organic waste as a resource costs in the waste sector can be reduced and both fertilizers and energy can be produced, while the negative environmental impacts can be reduced.

“There is huge potential to improve the management of organic waste in Cambodia. It should be considered a resource which can be used for fertilizer production (by composting) and energy production (by biogas digesters).

“Currently, when organic waste is collected, it is mixed with other waste on dumpsites or landfills, leading to methane emissions which have a negative impact on climate change,” she said.

However, she says that most citizens and vendors seem to have limited knowledge about how to make use of organic waste beneficially. The experiences of many other countries tells us that it is necessary that the state sets prices in the waste sector such as gate fees at landfills and determines compensation for waste collection companies.

“Environmentally sound waste management requires active regulation and public actors. People outside the larger cities could learn how to compost their own organic waste.

“If their homemade compost, full of nutrients for the soil, is spread in their gardens, it can provide better growing conditions and higher yields,” she said.

Sem Sophal, a resident of Kandal province, told The Post that improper disposal of organic waste was itself wasteful. She regularly collects organic waste from her kitchen and neighbours’ homes to use as compost for crops.

She said she expects that other people will begin to use organic waste because it is beneficial and helps the environment.

“All the waste I collect is very useful for growing crops and using these organic wastes is not difficult. I make it into compost and I put it in banana stumps and other crops, providing good results,” she said.

However, she sees that the people in her village do not seem to understand the benefits of organic waste, and they often throw away it away with other waste.

“I want my neighbours to keep their organic waste to enjoy the benefits of it too. Do not throw it away, just separate it from plastic waste and then put it in the banana stumps or crops. We can get better yields and it’s not difficult,” she said.

Neth Pheaktra, spokesman for the Ministry of Environment, told The Post on September 9 that the ministry also encouraged people to separate their waste into organic waste, plastic waste and hazardous waste.

According to the policy, the ministry has set a standard for the separation of garbage not only at home, but also for the separation of waste when it reaches the landfill in order to separate the non-recyclable waste out.

“This is to encourage as much recycling as possible and to reduce the amount of waste that is dumped in the landfill. Currently, 100 per cent for the urban areas and some other areas it is about 70 to 80 per cent of the waste that gets dumped in the landfill. In some areas, it is only 50 per cent and other 50 per cent is left on the street,” he said.

Pheaktra said that promoting the use of organic waste as compost is also one of the ministry’s goals in order to reduce waste at landfills and that some farms are also participating in making use of organic waste.

According to Pheaktra, 60-70 per cent of waste overall in Phnom Penh is organic waste in the form of perishable kitchen waste, while around 20 per cent is plastic waste and 10 per cent or less is hazardous waste.