Technical and financial evaluation of composting programs in Asia

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Courtesy of ORBIT e.V.

Because the solid wastes of Asian cities are typically comprised of 70-85% organics, dirt and dust (Furedy, 1989b), composting has long been considered an interesting option to reduce the amounts of waste to be transported and disposed of in landfills. Furthermore, composting makes use of natural resources (i.e., the organic materials in wastes) that would otherwise be wasted.

However, composting is not without problems. In the past many large-scale compost plants have been set up in developing countries based on western technologies. Many of these plants failed and were abandoned for several reasons (Furedy, 1989a; Lardinois and van de Klundert, 1993):

- the technology applied was often too complicated and not adapted to local circumstances
- financial and marketing aspects were usually ignored resulting in high operational costs
- management and technical expertise was often not sufficiently available
- the institutional environments (such as the legal and policy framework or economic circumstances) in which compost plants operate in western countries, were completely different from the ones in developing countries (and naturally, the institutional environment was not transferred along with the technology).

As one possible alternative, small-scale composting, also called decentralised or neighbourhood composting, was promoted and several organisations and universities in Asia started (pilot) projects (Furedy, 1989b).

The research included different scales of composting programmes and aimed at analysing the performance of these programmes. Technical aspects (i.e., process of composting, quality of compost) and financial-economic aspects (i.e., financial feasibility, marketing) were studied in detail. Institutional aspects (i.e., government policies and regulations, stakeholder co-operation) and environmental health aspects were also looked into. Success factors as well as existing problems and constraints were analysed.

Field studies were carried out in several towns in Argentina, Damietta and Cairo (Egypt), Bangalore (India), Bhaktapur (Nepal) and Sta. Maria (the Philippines).

This paper deals only with some of the technical and financial aspects of the composting programmes studied in Asia. Other findings will be reported in a separate paper.

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