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[Sustainera] Zero Waste School: A Scalable, Educative, and Sustainable Waste Management Model

2020-08-16 17:51
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Zero Waste School project is an initiative by Sustainera to create a sustainable waste management model: to be tested in schools in Kathmandu, Nepal. The project takes a hands-on educational approach to engage students in creating their own zero-waste campus.

Unsustainable waste production is a pressing global issue. In 2016, the World Bank stated that the worlds’ cities generated approximately 2.01 billion tonnes of solid waste globally, and the number is expected to increase by further 70% to estimated 3.40 billion tonnes by 2050. The assimilation capacity required to neutralise all of the pollutants per year would be equivalent to that of 5 earths.

Furthermore, effective waste management is expensive, accounting for half the total share of the municipal budget. This process is also tedious as failure to meet the growing numbers will lead to unregulated dumps and open incineration. This becomes a major health hazard as according to The Guardian, it may kill up to a million people globally each year.

However, when changing from the global scale to the per-capita footprint, it is interesting to note that each individual produces only 0.74 kg per day.

The Nepal Times in 2017 estimated that of the waste produced in Kathmandu Valley 60% of it is organic and about a quarter of it is recyclable materials. This ground-up perspective shows that the global waste problem is a result of an accumulation of the choices we decide to make regarding our individual waste and can be solved by effective waste management education.

Hence, Zero waste’s philosophy encourages an overhaul of our habits and thinking pattern so that our waste products are eventually reused. Raised in a different time, it might be harder to see a drastic shift in the lifestyle for adults.

However, through installing the sense of ownership of the environment in children we believe we can reach out to adults. Thus, education and training programs on zero waste management for school children would encourage them to take more responsibility for their environment.

Project Progress:

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, strict lockdowns were implemented in Nepal at the start of the project duration. Sustainera used this time to develop a curriculum for schools to teach students effective waste management through a KBA approach. The Knowledge, Behaviour, and Attitude approach aims to instill theoretical information as well as behavior and attitude change in participating schools and students.

Since the schools are still closed and will remain so for an unforeseeable amount of time, Sustainera has pivoted the training to be aimed at Teachers as trainers instead. Currently, Sustainera has built partnerships with five schools. The training will be provided to volunteer teachers on an online platform to be conducted in person for students once the lockdown is lifted.

One of the schools identified by Sustainera is Bhanodaya Basic School, a public school located in far suburbs of the Kathmandu Valley.

The school has around 200 students up to grade 7 and a severe waste management problem. Without the facility of waste collection in the part of the town, the school currently burns its waste in an open field. Sustainera is currently working with the schools to identify their needs (eg: dustbins) and help them create a student-owned waste management system. The same process is being applied in four more schools: 

  1. Jana Uddhar Secondary School
  2. Bhanodaya School
  3. Madan Ashrit School
  4. Bhadrakali School
  5. CYF- Life Vision Academy

Project Plan Forward:

Currently, Sustainera is changing its budget plan to accommodate 5 schools in place of the original plan of one. Sustainera will conduct four weekly sessions in September with volunteers and teachers from the five schools on Zoom on

  1. Waste Segregation
  2. The 3Rs
  3. Composting

Including impacts that poor waste management has on the environment and the school premises.

Sustainera will also purchase dustbins, compost bins, protective equipment, and other goods for schools to carry out the course and activities. A toolkit will be provided to the teachers to refer to.

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