Bhutan is a small landlocked nation located in eastern Himalayas. With a total land area of about 38,394 km2, the country has a population of about 0.76 million. The socio-economic achievement is accompanied by negative pressures on natural resources and the environment. The unprecedented escalation of municipal solid waste (MSW) generation especially in urban areas has emerged as one of the most serious challenges to the Royal Government of Bhutan (RGoB).
The RGoB, over the past years has been searching for options and opportunities to tackle the challenge. To date, public participation in the waste management system has not been strong. The waste quantity generated may not be alarming compared to the waste quantities in other countries, but for the population size and urbanization system in a steep mountain terrain, it has become a serious concern. This action research aims to study the current situation of MSW management system in Mongar, an urban
town in eastern Bhutan, in order to identify appropriate integrated solid waste management system for various waste streams that will ultimately lead to a zero waste city. Field visits and stakeholder consultations were carried out to ensure participation of various sectors from the beginning. Currently, a total of 1.76 tons of MSW is being generated daily with the per capita generation of approximately 0.28 kg/day in Household (HH) and approximately 1.44kg/day in Commercial establishment. The major component of waste includes organic (48.92%), paper (9.79%), glass (7.3%), plastics (6.49%), metals (1.74%), medical waste (17.72%), and others (8.04%). Management gaps in the current system were identified as: no waste segregation at source due to both low awareness and poor waste collection system, all wastes including autoclaved medical waste being dumped into the same landfill, and local authority having limited resources (human, fund, infrastructure, and technology) to handle the increasing quantity of waste. In order to improve the situation, various solid waste management intervention options were proposed. Intervention options were categorized into 3 major groups; waste streams based (organic and recyclables), management system based (segregation and collection system), and waste generator based (school, household and commercial sectors). Involvement of stakeholders has proved to be a key success factor. Waste segregation and separate collection for dry and organic waste can improve the situation. Market for recyclables exists across the border in India.