People, Environment

Effective Private Sector Role Needed for Waste Disposal

Effective Private Sector Role Needed for Waste DisposalEffective Private Sector Role Needed for Waste Disposal

The private sector can help improve waste management in Iran, but authorities have so far failed to exploit their full potential, according to a senior official at the Department of Environment.

Speaking to Mehr News Agency, Muhammad Javad Soroush, director of the Water and Soil Office at the DOE, said those responsible for managing waste — the Iran Municipalities and Rural Management Organization and the Ministry of Interior — have been unable to effectively manage waste, especially its disposal.

“We have to encourage private companies to get more involved (in the disposal business),” the official said. Private companies already play a prominent role in waste collection, but they are not heavily involved in their disposal.

The main problem is how waste is disposed in Iran. According to Soroush, “only 3% of waste in northern provinces and 7% of waste in the rest of the country” are sanitarily disposed.

Disposal of waste in the northern provinces of Gilan, Mazandaran and Golestan has proven to be exceptionally challenging due to the sheer volume of waste produced in relation to the population and size of the provinces, making it difficult to designate landfills.

Soroush said a comprehensive plan has been devised to alleviate the problem in those provinces.

“The plan relegates the position of governmental bodies to that of supervisors while paving the way for private investors to play a more effective role in waste disposal.”

He did not elaborate on the details of the plan, but emphasized that its success is contingent on facilitating private stakeholders’ involvement in waste management.

Improper disposal of waste has dire environmental consequences. All landfills produce some leachate (the liquid that drains or ‘leaches’ from a landfill). Whether the leachate contaminates groundwater depends on how the landfill is built, as well as on characteristics of the site.

The risks from waste leachate are due to its high organic contaminant concentrations and high concentration of ammonia. Pathogenic microorganisms that might be present in it are often cited as the most important, but pathogenic organism counts reduce rapidly with time in the landfill, so this only applies to the freshest leachate. If not managed properly, leachate can contaminate groundwater and soil, rendering them toxic to humans, wildlife and plants.