In 2005, the total population of Brunei was around 370,000, while at the end of 2007 it was recorded that the population rose to 390,000.
With the increase of business activities from just 2,577 registered businesses in 1998 to 7,240 businesses in 2003 and the subsequent proliferation of business due to increased lifestyle standards and the wave of modernisation, there have been changes in consumption patterns.
Over the years, new products have flooded the market. Consumers in Brunei are now more discerning and faced with a variety of choices.
As a consequence, solid waste production has escalated. In 2005 it was recorded that the average solid waste collection in Brunei-Muara was 354 tonnes per day.
Entire Brunei generates 189,000 tonnes of waste per year or 518 tonnes per day, or around 1.4 kg per person per day or almost 511 kg per person per year.
Brunei area is divided into four districts: Brunei-Muara, Tutong, Belait and Temburong; where Brunei-Muara produces 129,000 tonnes of solid waste per year, Tutong 21,700 tonnes per year, Belait 31,000 tonnes per year and Temburong 6,300 tonnes.
This number in 2030, with the assumption that the growth of solid waste production in line with the population at around 2.73 per cent, will be increasing up to 370,000 tonnes.
Or in other words, Brunei has the challenge to manage seven million tonnes of solid waste in 2030 (cumulative).
According to the 2006 figures collected by the Department of Environment, Park and Recreation, the composition of the waste in Brunei is 36 per cent food scraps, 18 per cent paper, 16 per cent plastics, six per cent yard waste, six per cent diapers, five per cent others, four per cent metals, three per cent glass and two per cent textiles, one per cent wood, one per cent electronic waste, one per cent rubber and one per cent inert.
These wastes come from various areas: residential, institutional and commercial areas, yard and landscaping, land clearing, and constructions areas.
The solid waste management in Brunei is using landfill. There is no recycling plant in the landfill.
Some recycling activities were done by private companies. The solid waste collection in Brunei-Muara is run by seven private and registered haulers, some unregistered and some by government.
Out of total haulers run in the country, 26 per cent is government provided (public sector haulers), 34 per cent is private and 40 per cent is unregistered haulers. The private and registered haulers are covering 19 zones across Brunei.
After being collected from residential, industrial areas and offices complex, the waste are all disposed in the landfill. Solid waste which cannot be collected and disposed at landfills (because some households refuse to pay the collection fee and left around the neighbourhood) will be burned and some others are left scattered around.
Hence you see some residential or commercial areas in Brunei Darussalam brimming with seemingly uncollected garbage.
There are six landfill sites across Brunei, which are Sungai Akar, Brunei-Muara; Bukit Udal, Tutong; Sungai Burung, Tutong; Anduki, Seria; Dua O Dua, Seria (privately owned); and Kg. Rubada, Temburong. The Brunei-Muara landfill (Sungai Akar) with the total area of 20 hectares, is still using the conventional dumping system.
The growth of solid waste production and the limitation of the land filling system in disposing the solid waste, brings out a further question on how are we going to manage the growing number of solid waste in the future?
The Sungai Akar landfill at the moment is at full capacity and has faced many problems such as leachate, drainage, insects, among others. The current system of land filling is considered no longer appropriate to handle the waste. This system if stands alone will not be able to address the waste problem and moreover it may causes many other environment catastrophes.
Waste collected in landfill is producing organic acids, ammonia and other hazardous substance. One tonne of organic waste produces 200 to 400 metre cubic of gas, including carbon dioxide and methane emission. This is not including the liquid coming from the waste (leachate) where in a modern landfill with liners, leachate will be flown into a pipe which goes to the chemical liquid recycling container, but in a conventional landfill without liners the leachate will pollute the soil around the landfill and the ground water.
Landfill also causes traffic, noise, dust and odour. The limited space of landfill, the technology it uses and also the pollution it causes might harm not only the environment but also the health of the people who live nearby the landfill.
It is recorded that birth defects, respiratory diseases, and cancer are illnesses which are partially caused by the pollution around landfills. In Brunei, the local residents around the Sungai Akar landfill are already suffering from the smell and the flies coming from the landfill site.
Based on these facts, it is really important to start considering an integrated solid waste management system which considers the sustainability of the environment and the health concerns.
It takes an efficient and effective system which covers the waste collection to the disposal without neglecting the environment and health to guarantee Brunei becoming a sustainable, clean and healthy country. The growing number of solid waste production needs to be anticipated with a proper and sustainable waste management.
There are many sets of waste management schemes that can be adopted as many other developing cities have gone to the direction of applying Municipal Solid Waste Management (MSWM), a management system which integrates several practices of waste management.
From collection to processing (reduce, reuse and recycling) and disposal.
Several kinds of solid waste management practices that are commonly used in developing countries include: reducing the source of waste by charging garbage per bag fee; enforcing maximum garbage per collection; recycling; garbage separation; composting; and disposal by land filling, among others.
However, one scheme or system that is best suited for a certain city might not be feasible in other places. Each management practice might have some weaknesses if it is not designed properly or integrated with other practices.
It is advised that every user of the system should find the most feasible combination of solid waste management practices. Finding the most feasible combination of solid waste management practices also means finding the most cost effective and socially accepted system. As people are the major actors in the planning then having a scheme which is accepted by the community is also prominent.
Public participation in the planning stage is necessary so that they can be fully involved when the strategies for solid waste management are implemented. In other words, a sustainable solid waste management is supposed to be a management system that is environmentally sustainable, socially acceptable and also economically affordable and efficient.
To be environmentally sustainable, the solid waste management system should consider two basic principles for environment: the mitigation; and the adaptation.
These principles are emphasising not only on how to respond to the current problems (adapt) but most importantly highlighting the importance of anticipating the possible future problems (mitigate).
In this sense, the strategic planning must coherent and responsive to dynamic demographics and industrial growth.
Using these principles, then for Brunei, the challenge is not only on how to manage 200,000 tonnes of solid waste per year but also, but also how to reduce the production of solid waste per capita per year.
For comparison, Brunei produces almost 1.4 kg of waste per person per day while Singapore only produces 1.1 kg per person per day (ibid).
There are two kinds of policies for the sustainability of the environment: regulations and enforcement; and economic instruments.
The first is taking the form of legislation by setting up standards such as emission standards, effluent standards etc. In the case of solid waste management, the example is standard for minimum recycled contains for industries, maximum amount of garbage collected per day, or garbage separation policy.
Meanwhile, the second policy is emphasising on 'incentive'. How to encourage society not to pollute the environment? Establishing tax on garbage (garbage per kg) and introducing a market for recycle material (glass, cans, organic scraps) are examples of the economic instruments.
With this approach society will be taught to consider the 'cost' of polluting the environment (trashing) and start to reduce the polluting activities. As the design of solid waste management system might influence the society, both behaviourally and economically then the strategic planning should reckon with the needs and preferences of the stakeholders.
Option of practices such as garbage taxing, garbage separation, etc. are only proven to be successfully implemented if there is strong enforcement and least public resentment.
This means that guaranteeing public participation in setting up the plan with regards to service delivery, costs and the social impact, is necessary.
In Japan, they use transparent bags. The reason is that the garbage collector might see what is inside the bag, as they have the policy of garbage separation.
Garbage collectors may refuse to collect the bin bags if they see cans inside bags for paper garbage. This policy might work in Japan but probably not in other places.
Another aspect which should not be left behind in order to be able to make a solid waste management system accepted by the society is education.
In Brunei, the Environment, Parks and Recreation Department under the Ministry of Development can play a vital role to introduce the system that the government has but also in raising the awareness on solid waste, such as on what these are and what is the impact on the environment and health and why people must have a sustainable lifestyle.
With the existing choices of technology, the practices of solid waste management system can be varied from modern with highly mechanical system to conventional.
As the cost of setting an integrated solid waste management system is not cheap, it is also important to see this system as an investment for the future.
This is part one of a two-part article prepared by the Centre of for Strategic and Policy Studies (CSPS). Part two will appear on Monday.