Tag Archives: sustainability

Waste collection

 

A change in behavior and the public’s participation are key factors for functional waste management.

Waste is increasing

Humanity has created 8.3 billion tons of plastics since large-scale production of synthetic materials began in the early 1950s, and most of it now resides in landfills or in the natural environment[1]. Globally, some 3.5 billion people lack access to formal waste management services and the population from remote areas in Afghanistan is no exception.

Global plastic pollution numbers are mind boggling: 500 billion plastic bags are used each year, one million plastic bottles bought every minute; most plastics do not biodegrade, so the plastic waste humans have generated could remain for a hundred or several hundreds of years. More and more plastic waste is found in the Afghan landscape, even in such places that deserve or already have the status of a national park. It is said that a dip in the lakes of Band-e-Amir, the first Afghan national park, will cure you from diseases, however the rubbish and waste that seems to end up in the lakes would suggest otherwise.

Community based initiative in Sokhtagi

Shocked by the amount of garbage littering the lakes, marshes and rivers of the region of Sokhtagi, Nai Qala’s president shared her sad feelings with the local community during her stay in the area, in March 2018. Her words resonated positively with the population and encouraged them to take action. At the end of June 2018, the school council of Sokhtagi organized a general waste collection day where more than 350 people participated. Parents, schoolteachers and students gathered several dozens of kilos of plastic, glass, metal and fabric from Sokhtagi marsh and its surroundings.

Such motivation among the community of Sokhtagi, in a historically isolated region, is remarkable. Among many other benefits, is the building of a school that makes villagers more aware of their environment. “We have one of the most beautiful lakes on our doorstep, we must take care of it and, who knows, one day our village might become an area that will attract many outsiders to visit” said a gentleman who was among the cleaning volunteers.

Becoming aware of the environment and the generated waste 

Nai Qala promotes sustainability values and engages the community to be mindful of their environment and take care of nature. Nai Qala encourages the community of all the villages where it builds schools and health centers, and ensures the environment is discussed with the beneficiaries of its programs.

At a time when the World Bank estimates that global solid waste generation is on pace to increase by 70 percent by 2025, with developing countries facing the greatest challenges, such community based initiatives give a strong signal of hope. Not only a waste collection day, but also a critical thinking about the materials populations use as well as good waste management practices will help keep those remote regions of central Afghanistan clean. Let’s hope that waste reduction, waste collection, being thoughtful about what one buys and choosing a sustainable option whenever possible will become part of the local culture.

[1]Roland Geyer et al. Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made. Science Advances, July 2017 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1700782

Sustainable materials

Reducing the environmental impact of construction by using local materials

It is very important to us when building community infrastructures, to reduce the environmental impact to a minimum. The energy needed for the production and transport of materials does not just increase the costs of construction considerably, but can also have a significant impact on the environment.

The  “grey energy” calculation includes the full analysis of the life cycle of the product: Planning, extraction and transport of raw materials, transformation of materials and manufacture of the product, commercialisation, transport, use and implementation and finally, any possible recycling. From this point of view, local materials that are either not transformed or only slightly transformed have a distinct advantage over the others: Stone, earth, clay, straw, wood or wool are all materials that can be used in modern construction and that have very low « grey energy ».

In the remote areas of central Afghanistan, the long distances needed for transportation increase the “grey energy” rate. The manufacture of some construction materials also plays its part in inflating the energy costs and has a negative impact on the environment. For this reason stone was chosen rather than clay bricks for the majority of Nai Qala constructions. Although there is an almost limitless availability of clay and it is totally recyclable, the firing of bricks involves high energy consumption that can last up to several days at temperatures of more than 1000 degrees. The kilns sometimes function with the use of fossil fuels or often with wood sourced from already arid regions, which contributes to deforestation.

When choosing a construction company and signing contracts the construction materials are chosen very carefully so as to ensure safety and comfort for those who use the building at the same time as keeping the environmental impact to a minimum.  For example, Sokthagi school is built from stones extracted from the nearby mountains and are cut to size on the spot. The grit and sand used for the mortar come from a river close by. Only the wood for the framework, windows and doors is transported from other regions. The sourcing of materials brings about a more positive ecological balance to the construction.