Dispatch from Kathmandu–How Recycling Works

Most “recycling” in Kathmandu is done by independent operators—men and women  who are unable to get other work, and who spend hours every day picking through piles of garbage for plastic and glass. According to the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC), about 80 percent of garbage produced by the city could be recycled. But the city has no funding for an official recycling program.

Bhandari asked this man how long he had been "recycling," but the man refused to answer.

In fact, Kathmandu has a larger problem: what to do with all the garbage. The current landfill site will run out of space in two months—with no alternative site yet identified. The temporary landfill meant as a stop-gap measure will take six months to complete. So what to do during that four-month gap? Officials say "alternatives" are being sought out.

Kathmandu Valley produces more than 500 tons of solid waste daily, and interruptions in garbage collection are depressingly regular. KMC says that during a three-year period, garbage management has been interrupted 180 days, the longest period being 17 straight days.

Garbage collection and recycling is much better in the highest part of Nepal. This year, an eco expedition collected 965 kilos (2127 pounds) of garbage from Mount Everest.

--Rajneesh Bhandari