Solid waste management in Nepal

Picture of a kid and his mother in solid waste land in Nepal

Waste management has been a problem in every developing country. Nepal is no different, however it has been really struggling by creating namesake policies and not implementing those policies to manage waste in its cities. “Nepal is small but exquisite. However, Kathmandu looks nothing like a capital” was the response of one of my friend who recently visited Nepal. I couldn’t disagree; It’s not a comfortable place to be with the dust, public garbage, hostile travel options and polluted rivers. After more than a decade of peace and democratically elected officials, not much has changed. Most of our recycling is done through ‘scrap buyers’ who roam the city to purchase old newspapers, books, or bottles. The government just has a ‘take, dump and avoid’ policy, which isn’t going well for the people and the environment. Every few years there’s a dispute between the government and the people near landfills, and the garbage piles mount in the city, often right by the sides of the road.


The Problem

Garbage dump area in Kathmandu

As a developing country, our cities are growing out their capacities. People are pouring in from all directions to the capital or neighboring cities in search for better opportunities for themselves and their family. The city however, is choking with people and pollution. From streets to the rivers, there’s sign of willful ignorance festering created by un-managed town planning and no waste management policies by the responsible authorities.

On average, around 1,000 metric tonnes of waste collected from Kathmandu valley is dumped into the landfill site at Sisdole on a daily basis. According to DoE, around 60 percent of such waste is recyclable while 40percent can be reused. Only 10 to 11 percent solid waste would be dumped in the landfill site if the waste was properly segregated.

– The Himalayan Times, October 2018

The negligence and inconstancy by the government have made people use unsafe ways of displacing their waste. From dumping them right onto the street and river to burning them, both very unhealthy and dangerous ways of waste management. The people also have grown a strong “out of sight, out of mind” mentality as dumping your waste somewhere you can’t see is the best recourse.

Garbage piles on the streets
Garbage piles on the streets of Kathmandu


Garbage pile by the street in Kathmandu,
Garbage pile in Kathmandu, via Wikimedia

Moreover, it has gone too far; there’s not much people can do; it is an accepted behavior. There is minimal waste separation and even less recycling. There have been efforts to initiate waste management through the involvement of private companies but with little impact. Needless to say, there’s a lot more that needs to be done.


Cleaning crews besides a temple in Kathmandu


Some startups are trying to fill the necessity for waste management and recycling. Nepwaste was a Finnish joint venture organization that had won contracts with the government for solid waste management of Kathmandu valley in 2018, but their website is completely blank at the time of the writing.

An image of a handshake between Nepwaste and Investment Board Nepal representative
Office of Investment Board Nepal, Government of Nepal has signed a Project Development Agreement (PDA) with Nepwaste for Kathmandu Valley Integrated Solid Waste Management Project (Package-I) on March 7,2018Eco-generation

The agreement was to create infrastructure, secure employees and start solid waste management including door-to-door waste collection, sweeping streets public areas like temples, cleaning of riverbanks, surface drainage, management of e-waste/hazardous waste/medical waste, hold campaigns on waste management issues, and also keep records of service recipients. They were going to charge Kathmandu residents Rs.219 per month for this service.


A sketch from Dokorecyclers showing the representation of garbage problem in the Capital Dokorecyclers image, -Courtesy: Dokorecyclers

DokoRecyclers is another private startup trying to manage solid waste in the valley. Currently operational in Kathmandu and Lalitpur, residents can schedule a door pick-up for waste collection by company. Residents are reimbursed a calculated amount based on the type and weight of the waste. Users can set up an account on the company’s website, which needs your personal information like phone number and email. The website records the amount of waste you’ve helped recycled as several cubic meters you help save. The gamifying aspect of getting more recycling done could help make it a trend among the residents.

Doko Recyclers, a private startup operating since July 2016, collects recyclable waste from 70 organizations and 1,800 households in the Valley. In exchange for waste items, which they pick up from the doorstep, they also pay cash to the clients.

The Kathmandu Post, August 2018

DokoRecyclers takes many kinds of solid waste off your hands, organize them, and forward them to the proper recycling platform across the country.

What DokoRecyclers buy from you?


Magazines, Cardboard/Cartons, Egg Crates, Old Books Paper Bags, Paper Boxes, Printing Papers, Jhura White (Shredded Paper), Toilet Roll Cardboard, Toothpaste Cover, Wedding Cards, Mixed Paper, Newspaper


Beverage Bottles, Bubble Wrap Plastic Bags, Cosmetic Bottles, Toiletries, Face Wash Bottles, Mixed Plastic, Shampoo Bottles, Milk Packets, Mineral water bottle, Plastic furniture, Gas regulator, Cosmetics Oil Packets


Beer Bottles, Jam Bottles, Oil Bottles, Domestic Liquor Bottles, Apple Cider


Aluminum Foil & Containers, Deodrants, Drink Cans, Food Cans, Paint Cans, Aluminium Pipes/Rods, Mixed Metal, Stainless steel


CPU Computer, Electronic Equipment, Consumer Electronics, Cell Phones, Monitors, Hard Disk, Mixed Electronic Waste, Monitor (Flat Panel), Cables

Clean Valley Company

Clean Valley Company is another company seemingly working for solid waste management in the capital. Nepwaste and Clean Valley Company were chosen by Investment Board Nepal (IB) to prepare Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the solid waste management in the Kathmandu valley. The Clean Valley Company website mentions very little of the project, and there’s no other information available online.

Everest Cleanup Campaign

Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) is a natural wonder and national icon only surpassed by the ability of our government to avoid the responsibility for it. Garbage has been piling up for decades and they only began to take notice when it began to surface in the media and overwhelm the tourists. Solid waste in Everest ranges from abandoned mountaineering and trekking equipment, oxygen tanks, beer bottles to human feces.

Climbers returning from the 8,850-metre (29,035-foot) mountain say its slopes are littered with human excrement, used oxygen bottles, torn tents, ropes, broken ladders, cans and plastic wrappers left behind by climbers, a embarrassment for a country that earns valuable revenue from Everest expeditions. –Reuters

The government just recently started a month long “Everest Cleanup campaign” with other stakeholders to clear and air-lift about 10 tonnes of garbage off of Mt. Everest in 2018.  The original plan to clean over 100 tonnes of solid waste, over estimating and over confident as usual.

Bags full of human waste, tents and garbage above Camp II on Mt. Everest.

Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee (SPCC) has been formed to continue the clean-up efforts on the Everest. We can just hope for the continuation of the similar clean-up efforts in the following years.

If you know of any similar projects, local or city-wide, please let us know so we can add to the information available. Let’s (try to) keep our city clean.

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