BMA's wasted opportunity

BMA's wasted opportunity

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has once again decided to delay raising refuse collection rates, which would have been the first hike in 15 years, until October next year.

City Hall cited the government's efforts to ease the financial burden on people associated with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The new rate, an increase from 20 baht to 80 baht per household -- a fourfold increase -- for 20 cubic metres of waste a month had been due to come into effect on Oct 1 this year.

The decision to put off the hike for a year was endorsed by the City Council. There were reports that some members of the council, handpicked by the military regime after local elections were suspended in 2014, were against an increase in the first place.

Yet, it's well known that the current 20-baht fee does not in any way reflect the real waste management cost in the capital which is put at 228 baht per month per household. However, in focusing solely on fee collection, the BMA and the City Council have missed an opportunity.

What is needed is effective waste management, and greater efficiency in waste disposal that requires a well-designed strategy, something that the current administrators, mostly retired state officials, have not ever thought of or have failed to understand.

These retired bureaucrats deal with waste disposal in a passive way. They parrot the need for recycling, but their campaigns are simply window dressing, without having real reduction goals.

What is lacking are the provision of facilities or incentives for residents to act upon. They could encourage the city's 50 districts, that each generate waste differently, to come up with their own waste management plan.

Waste that accumulates in heavily urbanised areas of the city is different from that in sparsely populated areas. Higher amounts of plastic waste are discarded in populated areas and this requires different waste collection strategies.

It would be helpful, for example, if the BMA introduced facilities to handle biowaste in public places like schools or temples in outlying city areas. This would help cut the amount of waste being sent to incinerators, and provide plenty of material for natural fertilisers.

The BMA has no strategy or reduction targets to cut waste levels on previous years, not even by 10%. Such goals would put the city on the right path in handling waste. Collection fees are also an incentive for people to be more mindful about waste.

The city should be using collection fees as an incentive for residents to cut back on waste, such as waivers for those who produce small amounts of waste.

According to a Thailand Environment Institute report this year, the city each month generates about 10,500 tonnes of waste, of which 20% is plastic.

The plastic situation worsened as a result of Covid-19 lockdown measures as residents had to buy takeaway meals since eating at food courts and restaurants was banned. The measures also derailed plans to ban one-time plastic bags. Unfortunately, the BMA did not take any initiative to redress this resurgence in plastic.

The waste problem is a political matter as well as an environmental one. It will not disappear and will become a thorn in the side of city administrators if they stick to their old ways.

It would be better to hold city governor and city council elections as soon as possible in order that more qualified people can take over and serve the city more effectively.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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