Trash fees go up, but city folk still in fear of waste

Trash fees go up, but city folk still in fear of waste

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration's move to quadruple the garbage collection fee has drawn mixed reactions from city residents. Some agree with the hike, while others don't want to pay higher fees.

City governor Aswin Kwanmuang has tried to convince residents that it's time to increase the fee, which has been frozen for 14 years, saying the new rate isn't too high or unaffordable.

Everyone, he insisted, should do their duty to contribute and people should be ashamed of themselves if they fail to do so.

The BMA said it has to increase the fee because the monthly rate of 20 baht per household, which has been the same since 2005, doesn't reflect the actual cost, which has gone up to 228 baht per household per month.

At 80 baht, the new rate is still much lower than the rate of 220 baht per month that was suggested by the Department of Health's 2017 Ministerial Regulation on Hygienic Waste Management.

The BMA has revealed that the 228 baht per month cost includes 130 baht for waste collection, and 98 baht for its management.

While the whole process costs the BMA about 6.9 billion baht a year, it can only collect a total of 523 million baht from residents, which is less than 10% of the cost.

Governor Aswin is correct. The 20-baht monthly fee doesn't reflect the reality. In no way could such a rate cover the costs shouldered by the BMA, whether it is for the petrol for the garbage trucks, waste management or the wellbeing of the workers who collect the waste from each house.

Mind you, these workers who deal with dirty waste each day work with their bare hands and without facial masks, even when the city is hit by smog. Most of them wear flip-flops, too.

Some people are complaining about the planned fee increase because they think it's the city's duty to provide waste management services free of charge.

Moreover, once the city starts collecting the new fee, many people will likely ask about the waste in public places and the trash generated by street vendors.

The city has banned most street vendors from main roads, pushing them to do business on backstreets, but the waste is still there -- unmanaged and out of sight.

The amount of public waste won't be reduced if the street vendors do not practise proper waste management or follow hygiene regulations.

Many vendors I've seen still dump solid waste and dirty water into the sewers.

Some may carefully pack used oil and food waste into plastic bags, just to recklessly dump them somewhere else at their convenience.

But I believe many are willing to pay the new rate which is set to take effect on Oct 1, though they are not entirely convinced that the city's waste situation will improve.

People have little, if any confidence that the new fee will be correctly used on waste management or that the BMA will improve how it deals with waste.

Look at how the BMA has handled waste management. As I'm writing this, I'm looking at a waste collection spot -- a stunning idea that came into effect last year.

At each spot where residents are required to put the waste into plastic bags, people will see a posted image of the waste collector responsible, but without a dumpster or a proper bin to store the rubbish to be collected.

Imagine pests sifting through the bags of trash and the liquid waste leaking, making our dysfunctional pavements even less pleasant.

How many years have we been discussing waste separation practices that never happen?

Many stopped separating their trash after finding out all the bags are thrown into the same truck. (But, to be fair, the BMA garbage trucks now have a separate compartment for recyclable waste, which the BMA fails to promote.)

We don't yet have to go as far as composting our food waste so that a household or community can turn their food waste into fertiliser.

But how many Bangkok residents know how to separate food waste from recyclables such as plastic, glass and paper? In most households, all kinds of trash is dumped together in one bag, including toxic waste like used batteries and light bulbs.

How many condos, so-called "modern living" spaces, have a waste separation system in their buildings?

The BMA hasn't tried hard enough to convince business operators to create less waste. Look at how many restaurant chains serve water in plastic bottles under their own brands, instead of in reusable glass bottles.

It's probably not all about money, though. I'm sure a large number of Bangkok residents would be ready to pay even more if they were convinced that the BMA would take serious action and improve its waste management.

Sirinya Wattanasukchai is a columnist for the Bangkok Post.

Sirinya Wattanasukchai


Sirinya Wattanasukchai is a columnist for the Bangkok Post.

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