Tsartsaa Nogoon helps deal with waste

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- Sorting, reducing, reusing and recycling waste is essential -

Less than 20 percent of Ulaanbaatar residents sort their waste, according to the Mongolian National Recycling Association’s data. Though it may not be a drastic improvement, it’s clear that there’s a steady change in people’s attitude toward sorting and recycling waste in Mongolia as more and more people are talking about and starting recycling compared to a decade ago. 

Sorting wastes will not only open opportunities to reuse and recycle waste to create new wealth but also grow the economy, minimize environmental and soil pollution, and eliminate diseases caused by this type of pollution. Just sorting waste is not enough – people need to deliver recyclables immediately to a recycling factory. Only by doing this we will be able to see tangible results in our and global efforts to cut down the excessively high volumes of trash dumped at Ulaanchuluut and Tsagaan Davaa dumpsites each day. Experts have warned us on multiple occasions that when trash at these dumpsites are burned, it releases toxic gas into the air and when it is buried underground, it pollutes the soil. However, all of the negative impacts of burning and burying waste can be diminished, possibly even cut off completely in the long run, by sorting wastes, reusing those that can be reused and recycling those that can be recycled. 

There are more than 100 centers collecting secondary raw material in Ulaanbaatar but most are located far from the city center, making it harder for residents to directly drop off their recyclable wastes to these facilities. Rather than traveling long distances to give away recyclables to such facilities, it’s easier and less costly to have them picked up by pickup trucks with all of the other wastes. 

For instance, 23-year-old B.Orkhon, who lives in Bayangol District, said, “I try to sort out the plastics, paper and vinyl bags and etc. from my trash. However, it’s complicated to deliver them to a recycling factory. Since I don’t have a car, it’s difficult for me to travel long distances if I have too much reusable and recyclable waste. And so, I have them picked up by a garbage truck.”

Tsartsaa Nogoo Nonprofit Company says it can help solve this problem for city residents. The company picks up sorted waste directly from households for 5,000 MNT regardless of where they live or how much trash they have and drops it off at recycling factories. Many locals are starting to realize the benefits of having their recyclables and reusable waste delivered to recycling factories.

“Worldwide, people are paying more attention to reducing their waste. Since I’m making a hands-on contribution to the effort to protect Mother Nature, I don’t think it’s too much to pay 5,000 MNT to get my recyclables picked up. We must show our children and their children that waste can become wealth,” says Ts.Bayarchimeg, a resident in Khan-Uul District. “Before learning about Tsartsaa Nogoon, I didn’t have time to sort my trash and take the recyclables to a recycling factory. I’m glad a service that sends off our recyclables to factories in our stead has been introduced.”

Tsartsaa Nogoon might have been founded by forward-thinking young people who came together to protect the Earth, but its unable to provide satisfactory services or reach all residents due to lack of promotion, shortage of funds and some problems with the payment system. 

A resident of 11th district in Songinokhairkhan District who tried out the service said she went back to dumping her recyclables with all of the other trash because she found the payment system to be too complicated. In addition, Tsartsaa Nogoon needs more funding to fill up the fuel tanks of its trucks, maintain their trucks, and further expand its operations. Due to these challenges, the team is picking up their customers’ sorted waste once a week on Sunday. 

Member of Khogoo Bagasgay (Let’s reduce waste) Facebook Group B.Saruul who’s in charge of taking up orders for Tsartsaa Nogoon noted, “We don’t buy reusable waste. We get paid for accepting people’s orders and delivering their trash. Tsartsaa Nogoon is a non-profit service and we get most of our operational cost from ourselves. Therefore, we have no choice but to charge at least a small amount of money for our services.”

The team usually picks up recyclables from four or five households or organizations per trip they make. On Sundays, the team usually goes around Olympic, Crystal and River Garden residential areas where they have regular customers and collects over 20 kilograms of sorted waste, including plastics, cans and glass bottles.

Resident of Olympic Town T.Nomin started separating her recyclable waste from non-recyclables since Tsagaan Sar in February. This will reduce the amount of waste dumped and protect our planet to an extent, she believes. She advised Tsartsaa Nogoon to bring bags or containers for each type of recyclables when they collect their waste to make it easier to sort it.
“I often have trouble finding things to give to the pickup team because I don’t know what to give or can’t seem to find anything recyclable. It would be easier if they come with their own bags or containers. I’d be even happier if they don’t charge any fee in the future,” she said. 

Neighbors who saw the team helping T.Nomin sort her waste at her door were eager to find out more about the service, which shows that people are growing interested in recycling. 

On the other hand, B.Saruul stressed the need to remind customers which wastes can be recycled and provide other related advice as there have been quite a few people who thought it was possible to recycle all wastes. This indicates that Mongolians are lacking knowledge and information about waste management, specifically sorting, reusing and recycling wastes. She said that bottles and cans of imported beverages and drinks cannot be recycled and that only bottles and cans of domestically produced goods, such as Khujirt and Senguur, can be recycled in the country. 

“People can also collect bags and containers of Talkh Chikher, Uguuj and Stimo bakeries as they can be recycled. However, plastic bags with aluminum foil on the inside which are usually used for packaging imported products can’t be recycled. It’s necessary to look at the packaging before buying products,” B.Saruul advised.

There are a couple of plastic factories in Mongolia but not a designated recycling plant in Mongolia. Due to this issue, the majority of recyclables have to be shipped to China to be processed, according to Tsartsaa Nogoon. Plastic Center is recycling all types of plastics in the country and making them into flower pots and plastics that can be put inside latrine pits to prevent soil pollution. Apparently, three to five tons of plastic bags are required to cover the insides of a latrine pit. However, most people in Mongolia collect plastic containers rather than plastic bags. 

Tsartsaa Nogoon’s team says they don’t find this work tedious as it is for a good cause although it can be quite hard during winter. They step on cans in order to collect at least one more can. They deal with people’s waste from early morning, which can involve grinding through the extreme weather changes for prolonged periods of time, and in return, get a chicken’s feed for pay. Still, thinking that they are starting a change and helping the environment encourages and motivates them to continue their work, said a worker. 

After collecting recyclables all day, the team give their load to recycling factories and receive 160,000 MNT at maximum. This money goes back to buying fuel and pay for other operational costs, according to B.Saruul. Tsartsaa Nogoon aims to expand its team, provide uniforms, buy bigger trucks, and offer free pickup services in the long run. The team underlined that they will not have to charge delivery fees if more households sort out their trash and have their recyclables picked up.
Moreover, if more households, companies and organizations submit their recyclables to factories, recycling factories will no longer face shortage of raw materials. This will stabilize their operation, attract investment, increase people’s interest to build a recycling plant, and help out wealth creators who use recyclable material. 

“If every family provides a kilogram of recyclable materials in two months, and let’s say that 500,000 families are able to provide 500 tons of plastic bags, it will be possible to produce more than 100 benches for parks, flower pots, and manhole covers,” said a representative from Plastic Center. 

It was reported that less than half of the 23 recycling factories in Mongolia are able to ensure stable operations. The most common reasons recycling factories temporarily close down are said to be the shortage of raw materials and lack of equipment. Apparently, it take a long time to accumulate even cardboard paper. Considering this, it would really help if more people submitted their recyclables or get a service like Tsartsaa Nogoon to do it for them, which can motivate people to take up other eco-friendly habits. 

Recycling factories such as Sain Tsaas, Khev Khanshmal Khuvantsar and Narnii Adis formed a partnership with Tsartsaa Nogoon to secure adequate amount of raw materials for their operations. Without a doubt, domestic production and development will flourish if more waste is reused and recycled, not to mention its ecological advantages. And so, it’s crucial to support eco-friendly waste management initiatives like Tsartsaa Nogoon.

Dulguun Bayarsaikhan