Jun 2016

Ben’s Mongolian Story

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Tackling Waste in Mongolia – written by Ben

As a waste management professional from the UK who loves to travel, my heart breaks for the way in which we disregard God’s creation and ignore our ordained role as steward. In particular the devastating effects that poor waste management (in both the developed and developing world) can have on both the environment and local communities. The challenges facing the developing world with regards waste are varied and complex. The issues of corrupt governments, cash strapped local authorities, lack of waste and environmental education and poor communication, can seem overwhelming and lead to inaction due to the sheer scale of the problem. Inaction is not an option for those of us that want to enjoy God’s creation and small steps can be taken to begin to tackle the problems, after all a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

I strongly believe that we, particularly in the developed world, have the wrong view of waste. We should view waste as an untapped resource rather than something to discard as quickly and conveniently as possible (whether that be the nearest bin or the local watercourse). Often only a small value needs to be attached to a waste product to remove it from the waste that ends up in landfill. In partnership with OMF and JCS, I was invited to visit Mongolia in 2015 to look at the waste issues in and around the capital Ulaanbaatar and see what the possible cases for action were.


Soap from sheep fat

An example of this in Mongolia is animal fat. Due to the large numbers of livestock animal fat has a very low value. It is used in cooking once or perhaps twice before being discarded (often into drains where is causes unpleasant blockages). There are a number of options for utilising such a carbon rich resource but one of the easiest is to make soap the old fashioned way. Animal fats can be mixed with water and caustic soda to make a basic soap, other waste materials can also be used as a fragrance like used coffee grinds, orange or lemon peel. And this is exactly what Betel International is now doing with their animal fats after cooking.


Abundant Resources

A further example is waste paper and cardboard. Both are a common sight outside the back of shops or apartment buildings. The waste is sometimes used by householders or street people to start fires but a large proportion of this waste ends up at the local landfill. When compressed, paper and cardboard burn slowly like a soft wood, so by pulping the waste and mixing in other waste materials such as nut shells or sawdust (if available) and squeezing the water out, a briquette can be made that burns for up to 4 hours. briquette making machineThis not only provides a use for the material but displaces the brown coal commonly used for heating and cooking in Mongolia, and due to the cleaner burn helps to reduce the chronic air pollution in Ulaanbaatar. Betel has started producing these briquettes on a near industrial scale to reduce their coal bill by over 50%.

The aim now is to replicate these examples (and hopefully some other I’m working on) through communities in Mongolia and potentially in other countries too.



Want to talk about waste with Ben and others? Contact info@b4blessing.com








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