Loss and Damage - Adverse Impact of Climate Change
Quality of compost maintained in the compost plant at Bulta, Greater Dhaka.
source: Waste Concern

The Waste Concern Group is a Social Business Enterprise (SBE) comprising both “For Profit” and “Not-for Profit” enterprises. Waste Concern was founded in 1995 with the motto “Waste is a Resource”. Later the Waste Concern Group was formed to achieve a common vision to contribute towards waste recycling, environmental improvement, renewable energy, poverty reduction through job creation, and sustainable development. The Waste Concern Group was founded by A. H. Md. Maqsood Sinha, a professional architect-urban planner, and Iftekhar Enayetullah, a civil engineer-urban planner.

In 2007, Bangladesh requested the support of the United Nations Centre for Regional Development (UNCRD) to set its national policy strategy, and IGES together with UNCRD started to work on 3R national strategy. Waste Concern has played a major role in this project. This month, we hear from Mr. A. H. Md. Maqsood Sinha, co-founder of Waste Concern, telling of the challenges in creating this group from scratch.

Abu Hasnat Md. Maqsood Sinha
Abu Hasnat Md. Maqsood Sinha is co-founder of Waste Concern, a group set up in 1995 with Iftekhar Enayetullah, a civil engineer and urban planner. A.H.Md.Maqsood. Sinha is a professional urban planner and architect by training with more than 20 years of experience He holds a Masters Degree in Urban and Regional Planning with specialisation in environment, urban waste management and recycling from the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Bangkok, Thailand
source: Waste Concern

Related Link:
Waste Concern

September 2011

Waste is a Resource
- Creating jobs for thousands and benefitting millions -

Mr. Abu Hasnat Md. Maqsood Sinha
(Co-Founder and Executive Director)

Behind the Scene

--- Is there any anecdote in your life which made you interested in and motivated to study the issues of environmental and urban waste management, which you studied as a Masters degree at AIT?

The first interaction with waste in my childhood was when I was a boy scout in my school. We were assigned to clean the neighbouring area of our school to create a better environment. For the first time in my life, a realisation came in my mind- if we act together we can minimise waste-related problems effectively. Later, after I completed my Bachelor of Architecture from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, I enrolled myself in the Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand to pursue my masters in urban planning. During that time one of my professors advised me to read a paper written by Dr. Christine Furedy entitled "Social aspects of solid waste recovery in Asian cities". Dr. Furedy showed that waste management cannot be solved with only engineering solutions, it should also address social and environmental aspects. This publication had a huge impact in my mind and inspired me to carry out a study on informal and formal sector linkages in waste management and recycling in Bangladesh. During my field study I found that thousands of neglected poor people from informal sectors are engaged in the trade of recycling waste. These people are invisible to our eyes, but they are unknowingly saving our environment. I had a profound realisation that if we want to have sustainable solution to waste management, we need to look at waste as a resource.

Keep Doing Good for the Society – Social Business Enterprise(SBE)

--- The Waste Concern Group has been called a Social Business Enterprise (SBE) comprising both "For Profit" and "Not-for Profit" enterprises. Could you tell us how you and your co-founder started your business in 1995?

In 1993, during field studies for my thesis in Dhaka city, I met Iftekhar Enayetullah (co-founder), a civil engineer who was then studying in the urban planning department of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. His special interest was focused on suitable technology for solid waste management and recycling. Both of our research findings had one common feature which was that we must do all we can to convert waste into resources, because the conventional system of collection & dumping will not solve the problem. More than 80% of our waste is pure organic waste which we simply dispose of, but this can be recycled and has economic value. Our idea was to promote a decentralised community-based compost plant with effective formal and informal sectors, and also community partnership.

First we approached different government departments and city corporations, and shared our idea of waste minimisation and recycling. We even offered free service to the government authorities. Nobody was interested initially; they laughed and said we were graduates fresh from university, with new theories and ideas which were not practical. One day a senior government official told us, if your idea is so good, instead of bothering us why don't you do it by yourselves. This advice changed our life, although we were little bit frustrated but it showed us to think differently.

In 1994, we convinced the Lions Club (Dhaka, Northern) in Mirpur, Dhaka to allow us to use a piece of land owned by them to experiment with our idea of a decentralised approach to waste recycling. Initially they were reluctant to give us the land because we would be dealing with waste which smells and can create a nuisance in the neighbourhood. They gave us 3 months to experiment with the waste, and if there was any complaint we would have to leave their land. Fortunately, we were very successful with the idea, producing good quality compost. People in the community were satisfied with the project and the Lions Club allowed us to continue with our work.

There are three major steps to our decentralised composting model: the first step is to involve the community by asking people to separate their waste (organic and inorganic) and also participate in the house-to-house waste collection programme. For the second step, separated fresh organic waste is processed into organic fertiliser/ compost using Waste Concern's box method of composting. Finally the third step is to market the compost to farmers with help of private marketing.

After Establishing Waste Concern in 1995

The demonstration project attracted many people in the country who could have firsthand experience of how waste can be converted into fertiliser using simple, labour-intensive technology. After one year in 1995, Waste Concern was born as a research based not-for-profit organisation. Later this model was replicated in several cities in Bangladesh with support from external support agencies (i.e. USAID, UNDP, UNICEF, OXFAM, WSP-WORLD BANK, ADB) in partnership with the government ministries and departments. In the year 2000, Waste Concern Consultants was established as a `for-profit' social business enterprise to scale-up the model in cities and towns of Bangladesh and overseas. In 2005, we established WWR Bio Fertilizer Ltd., a joint venture company to initiate decentralised compost plants for Dhaka city with a capacity of 700 tons per day, using carbon trading. For the first time globally, Waste Concern in partnership with its Dutch partner World Wide Recycling b.v. developed a methodology whereby it could be proved that aerobic composting can reduce methane (a Greenhouse Gas). This extra income from carbon trading made investment in the waste-to-compost project more attractive for any investor. In 2006, Waste Concern established Waste Concern Baraka Agro Products to promote safe organic food in Bangladesh. In 2010, Waste Concern in partnership with UNESCAP, with the support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation started to replicate its model in 10 cities and towns in the Asia -Pacific region. Under the same initiative with the seed money provided by the Gates Foundation, a fund called Waste to Resource Fund (W2RF) has been established. The intention of this fund is to help poor cities and towns with a complete package (technology, capacity building training and financial support using carbon trading), which is different from conventional funding arrangements available in the market.

Quality of compost maintained
in the compost plant at Bulta, Greater Dhaka.
source: Waste Concern

If you look at the chronology of our experience, when we first experimented with our idea, we did not have any funds or land. Usually, in a developing country it is very difficult to get funds available for research or experiments. Somehow we managed to arrange some funding from friends and relatives to construct our compost plant and arranged land. Later in 1995 we had to register Waste Concern as a `not-for-profit' organisation in order to receive grants to replicate our model. Initially we were supported by RUDO-USAID, UNDP and UNICEF. After successful piloting and replications we wanted to scale-up our model to a larger scale. To do so we had to prepare a business model and so we approached local commercial banks for a loan, but no banks were interested in lending money to a `not-for-profit' organisation. So in the year 2000, we initiated a number of `for-profit' organisations/ social business enterprises to avail commercial/soft loan from banks to scale-up our composting/recycling projects.
In our model of managing waste, we try to link several partners in a mutual benefit-loop. It starts from the community which becomes involved with waste segregation, and people pay a service fee for house-to-house waste collection and can get a cleaner and healthier environment. Then the public sector enjoys reduced collection, transportation and disposal costs for solid waste management and has to manage a smaller amount of waste with its limited resources. The private sector makes a profit from running a compost plant and also marketing compost. As a result, many jobs are created for the informal sector and farmers are saving their soil. Recently, income from carbon trading has also made the project attractive for private investments.

My Motto

--- If you had only one "motto" which is the most important for your life & work, what would it be?

Do not look at waste as a problem, it can be a resource.

DATA on Waste

--- Could you give us an outline of your business, such as how many jobs have you created, how many replications have taken place, what changes have been made, the amount of emissions you have reduced or traded (tons? or US dollars?)

The major activities of Waste Concern are in the field of waste management, climate change and environment. Waste Concern focuses on pilot projects for all types of waste and cleaner energy, especially solar and bioenergy projects. Waste concern conducts research, provides consultation services, project assistance, support for institutional development, policy development, capacity building and innovation and implementation of waste management and environmental projects with its own capacity comprising about 21 professionals and a team of committed support staff. The Waste Concern Group has a number of sister concerns which can be called Social Business Enterprises (SBE). The idea is Waste Concern conducts research, experimenting and piloting new ideas with grants or support from others, and then scales-up and replicates successful initiatives using its sister concerns. All these enterprises have a common motto of converting waste into resources.

Waste Concern's diverse projects have created numerous direct and indirect benefits for the economy and the environment. Excluding the CDM project in Dhaka, the impact that Waste Concern’s work has in Bangladesh can be reflected by the following data:

  *  From 2001 to 2006, 124,400 tons of waste were processed into 31,100 tons of compost and created 986 direct jobs annually.
  * USD1.24 million in foreign currency was saved by avoiding the import of chemical fertilisers.
  * The total value of the compost sold in the local market between 2001 to 2006 was USD1.10 million.

Waste Concern created a jointed venture called WWR Bio Fertilizer Bangladesh Ltd. and established the world's first carbon trading-based compost plant located in Bulta, greater Dhaka. Data shows that:
  *  from January 2009 to September 2010, this plant processed 65-90 tons of organic waste every day. Some statistics of the aforementioned plant are shown below. The cumulative amount of organic waste processed during this period by the plant was 33,133 tons and 4000 tons of compost was produced from this organic waste.
  * During this period the plant reduced 10800 tCo2eq emissions.
  * This facility has created 150 direct jobs for the poor and has served 141,452 people (including urban population getting free waste collection service and farmers using compost). It saved Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) about USD 1.05 million budget (Considering USD 32 per ton of SWM management cost of DCC).

Apart from Bangladesh, Waste Concern is also active on the global level. Waste Concern is working towards establishing recycling plants in the following six countries: Sri Lanka, Viet Nam, Pakistan, Nepal and Cambodia. Furthermore, we are working with UNESCAP and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to replicate the Waste Concern model in 10 cities in the Asia Pacific region by 2012. Waste Concern also extends itself in the policy-making arena, steering environmentally-appropriate governmental regulations, both existing and new. To date, we have been influential in the development of 27 governmental policies related to environment, climate change and waste recycling.

Future Challenge and Concern

--- What are the challenges that lie ahead for you and your organisation? (e-waste? hazardous waste? trans-boundary illegal waste issues? or any political concern?)

Problems faced mainly in developing countries are rapid population increase resulting in the increase of waste; change in composition and characteristic of waste (e-waste and hazardous waste); lack of appropriate policy on waste management and recycling; lack of incentives to private sector for recycling and recyclable products, and lack of awareness on proper waste segregation and recycling (due to lack of segregation we are polluting and soiling good waste with bad) by citizens, public sector and private sector. Several government ministries are somehow linked to waste management and recycling. For example, municipalities and City Corporations, ministries related to local government, environment, commerce, industry, finance should be co-ordinated under a single umbrella to reduce bureaucracy, corruption, time consumption for approval for a venture-related to waste recycling and climate change.

Expectation for COP17

--- COP17 will be held at the end of this year in Durban, South Africa. Your business has been registered as the first CDM model from Bangladesh. What do you expect as a result from the next COP meeting?

Yes, there is a question regarding Kyoto Protocol. Waste Concern is working in developing and Least Developed Countries (LDC). The good news is the European Union has confirmed the purchase of carbon credits beyond 2012. We have already signed an agreement with a European buyer with an assurance of carbon purchase beyond 2012 and up to 2021. As such, there is no risk for our project in the immediate future, because even if Kyoto Protocol does not work, it will be followed by Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMA) and Sectoral CDM. Initiatives of World Bank's Prototype Carbon Fund, ADB's Asia Pacific Carbon Fund, UNDPs MDG Carbon fund etc. are designed beyond 2012 to help developing countries. So, we do not see any risk for our registered CDM project. We are extremely optimistic about the next COP 17.

--- Thank you very much.

About "Monthly Asian Focus: Observations on Sustainability"

Until 2010, IGES has released “Top News on the Environment in Asia” on a yearly basis. For over 12 years since its establishment of IGES in 1998, “Top News” has collected and organised information about environmental issues and policy trends in the region.

In January 2011, IGES launched the new web-based series "Monthly Asian Focus: Observations on Sustainability" in which leading environmental experts deliver their take on latest trends of sustainable Asia.

Go to top of page