D.Munkhtsetseg: Mongolia receives tons of trash from abroad

Trans. by B.DULGUUN

Where there are people, trash and waste are generated. Reducing and recycling waste is the foundation to a healthier living environment. Professor of the environmental sector of the School of Civil Engineering and Architecture at the Mongolian University of Science and Technology (MUST), D.Munkhtsestseg, gave an interview regarding this topic.

Our sources say that you are the only expert in Mongolia specialized in waste processing technology. Where did you study for this profession?

In 2000, I graduated as a chemical technician from the Chemistry Faculty at the National University of Mongolia and started working at the Institute of Chemistry and Chemical Technology of the Mongolian Academy of Science (MAS). In 2011, I got my master’s degree for waste processing technology engineering from the Faculty of Forest, Hydro and Geosciences at the Dresden University of Technology in Germany.

The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science told me I was the only person with this profession in Mongolia when I returned after graduating. Now, there are four others with the same profession. They’re all my students.

Now that you’ve formed your own team, will you be intensifying waste processing projects?

Waste processing technology engineers are one of the most demanded experts of the government. The faculty of environmental engineering sector at the MUST had its first enrollment in 2010. Many important works are awaiting our graduates. Most people expect us to work beside rag pickers near Naran Enger and Ulaan chuluut landfills when they hear of our profession. Waste processing technology engineers are environmental engineers. We produce new products from free materials that are no longer in need and develop technologies for reusing useful waste, preventing them from becoming depreciative.

How much waste does Ulaanbaatar have? Have you researched and made analysis on this?

Approximately 47 percent of Mongolia’s population (around 1,372,000 people) lives in Ulaanbaatar. Last year, 1.2 million tons of waste was disposed at landfills and waste disposal sites in Ulaanbaatar. Open-pit landfills are abundant near the city such as Emeelt and Gachuurt. Our research shows that a ger area resident produces 600 grams of waste a day while an apartment resident produces 800 to 1,200 grams of waste a day. This is merely the amount from households.

In 2004, approximately 193,000 tons of waste was formed from the capital and in 2009, the amount almost doubled to 374,000 tons. This figure exceeded pre-estimation made in 2004. Since then, the amount of waste has rapidly grown through the years.

How does Germany manage its waste issues? What kind of policy does the German government have on waste disposal?

Germany is the leading country with highly advanced waste processing technology. Germans consider waste as economic raw material for saving natural resources. They take many measures such as producing biogas from wastes to use it as a secondary raw material for production, renewable energy and heat source, as well as bury waste to ensure no harm to the environment. Waste disposal and processing is managed by legislations passed by the government and municipality. The public strictly follows regulations specified in these legislations. Germans are charged fees depending on their waste amount so they try to create as little waste as possible. Producer companies are responsible for disposing their expired products.

What should Mongolia do to minimize waste?

The fundamental plan for waste management is to reduce and prevent the generation of waste. This work is exercised with short and long-term strategies. Experts in this field are focusing on consumption across the world since waste is generated from people’s needs. For instance, countries can rationalize on packaging and containers, and encourage people to use reusable shopping bags. Waste shouldn’t always be burnt.

Are you suggesting that waste should be sorted and specific technologies should be used for waste disposal?

That’s right. For example, radioactive and explosive waste mustn’t be burnt. They should be made less dangerous through complex chemical processes, including disinfection and neutralization, before disposing with combustion technology. Suitable processing methods are used after they are categorized as household, construction, production and hospital waste, and separated by their source – wood, metal, plastic and so on. Mongolia is processing liquid waste with mechanic-biological method. We haven’t gotten to processing solid waste yet. It’s in fact possible to produce many types of products, including fertilizers, gas, energy and heat, via chemical and deep-processing.

Marine litter is another urgent global issue. Although Mongolia is a land-locked country, it has large lakes. Have you researched the waste level near lakes and rivers like Khuvsgul Lake and Tuul River? How should they be cleaned?

Annually, 25,000 tons of packaging, bottles, cans and plastic products pollute lakes, seas, and oceans. A research shows that approximately 150,000 tons of fishing nets and gears were lost in oceans. Nearly 50,000 seals become trapped or entangled in these marine litters and die every year in the Pacific Ocean.  Litter disposed into oceans decreased slightly since the Basel Conventionon the Control of Trans-boundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their disposal was approved. Previously, developed countries used to have their waste disposed in less developed countries or have it dumped at the bottom of seas and oceans.

It’s important for Mongolia to not pollute Khuvsgul Lake, our source of clean water. Currently, we don’t have a definite analysis or study about marine litter and its amount. Mongolia doesn’t have a specified personnel for researching this. I think our new experts can focus on this topic. Legal regulation is top priority for preserving unpolluted, clean rivers and lakes. High penalties should be set up for littering near rivers and lakes, more trash bins need to be set up, and regularly spring cleaning should be done.

Has Mongolia disposed of hazardous waste from foreign countries?

Such cases occur to countries that haven’t joined the Basel Convention. The USA transports and dumps its hazardous waste in African and Asian countries since it’s not part of the Basel Convention. Mongolia joined this convention, hence we prohibit trans-boundary movements of hazardous waste. Yet, Mongolia receives some wastes under the pretense of grant aid, relief goods, and second-hand products. For example, old electronic products, clothes, furniture, and cars. These products become waste after some time as their usage time expires. This has become one of the reasons for the increased waste amount in Mongolia.

The main driver of the economy of Mongolia is mining. Toxic chemical agents, including mercury and sodium cyanide, are spilled during mining procedures. How can these hazardous chemicals be removed without harming people’s health?

Despite the lack of transparency on mining waste, almost everybody knows it’s harmful to our health. A complex technology is required for processing waste from mining. Western countries have already developed technologies for processing toxic chemical agents such as sodium cyanide. They combine neutralizing and precipitation methods for heavy metals through mechanical means.

The public is conflicting on whether the green trash bags distributed by the capital city are necessary. Do you support the distribution of green bags?

Most of countries across the world throw out trash in bags. But I don’t think this method is urgently called for in Mongolia because the regulation and payment system in Mongolia is lacking. Waste structure and its components in residential areas are also extremely different, not to mention that Mongolia doesn’t have a waste treatment plant for final removal.

Are you saying that distribution of trash bags is unnecessary when Mongolia hasn’t established waste treatment and recycling plants?

Waste treatment plants and especially recycling facilities should be built in densely populated areas such as Ulaanbaatar, and Darkhan-Uul and Orkhon Provinces. Despite our small population, Mongolia separates and processes plastics, paper, cardboard and wood mechanically, and supplies it to china. This shows that Mongolia can extract several raw industrial materials from waste. The Central Waste Water Treatment Plant has resources to produce biogas from sewage sludge and turn it into fuel as well as a relatively small heat and electricity sources.

In 2009, I did a research on the structure, volume, and the condition for removal/ disposal of waste in the city and local areas.

Are you able to use your research work into practice?

I’ve introduced the membrane bioreactors device from Germany. This device helps multiply microorganisms adapt to excrement, and performs dual filtering with micro filters to purifies 99 percent of waste water. At the moment, our team has purified 80 to 87 percent of waste out of water through standard trial tests. Membrane bioreactors device can be used for cleaning toilet seats, green facilities, water fountains, and cars.

Can water cleaned with this device be used for drinking purposes?

Mongolia hasn’t got a standard that enables us to use processed gray and black water for drinking. Scientists at the MUST are working towards establishing these standards in Mongolia.

Have you tried drinking purified water from this device?

Director of the producer company verified that water cleaned with membrane bioreactors device is safe to drink and can be used for drinking purposes. Purified water from our team’s trial test hasn’t been drunk yet. Certain period of time is required since we’re multiplying and adapting microorganisms that will decompose excretion. By the end of spring, we’ll be able to completely purify waste water. When that time comes, we’ll be able to drink purified water tested by our team.


Source: http://mongolnews.mn/1g4y


Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=13227

Posted by on Jan 25 2015. Filed under Prime Interview. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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