Drone monitoring to survey and assess waste management infrastructure

Aerial images are a great tool to survey any physical infrastructure. In the SCIP Plastics project, we have been using drones to survey and assess the Rajbandh final disposal site. In case of this open disposal site, drone images are critical, since not all sections of the site are safe to access. The images can help to determine the expanse of the waste body over time, to spot any waste leaks (solid and liquid) into the surrounding area, and oversee construction measures happening at the site.

Here are two drone images from March 2023 (left, © Florian Wehking) and April 2024 (right, © Noor Alam). We can clearly see how much closer the waste body moved towards the boundaries, especially in the north. Furthermore, a new larger leachate pond has emerged in the south-eastern corner just outside the boundary of the site. This is a concerning development and illustrates the need to improve containment measures at the site. The project team of Working Group III (lead: Pangkaj Kumar Mahanta) is currently working on improving embankments and the fence line.

After seeing how useful these drone images can be, we now started to use them in the urban environment to survey the state of secondary transfer points and stations in Khulna city. To create a baseline, on the 30th March 2024 we started with the open transfer stations. Here are the images of Boyra Azizer STS (left, © Noor Alam) and KDA Mosque STS (right, © Noor Alam).

Currently, we are developing operational guidelines and containment measures to reduce the spreading of plastic waste from transfer points and stations. Drone monitoring will be used to evaluate the impact of these measures.

Overall, the recent surveys illustrated that drones can be a great tool for city cooperations and public institutions to monitor and assess solid waste management infrastructure. The SCIP Plastics project has already developed basic standard operating procedures for the monitoring and will test these over the next months.

Truck scale at Rajbandh under construction

“You cannot manage what you do not measure!” is the motto of the hour. To put any waste management infrastructure planning on solid footing, we need reliable data. Up to now, waste quantities have been approximated by maximum truck payload. This might have led to an overestimation of waste generation in Khulna. We will soon find out! The SCIP Plastic project is currently constructing a platform at the entrance of the Rajbandh final disposal site. Here, we will carry out a truck monitoring with a mobile truck scale. Construction is well under way and we are optimistic to conduct our first weighing campaign in June 2024.

Kick-off for pilot study on business model implementation

Key effort of working group II is the elaboration of business incentives for targeted collection and provision of mismanaged plastic waste while balancing additional expenditures for KCC providing safe treatment and deposition. Challenges and opportunities lie in the synergies that need to be transferred into a win-win business model, which overall prevents open and uncontrolled pollution of plastics.

In the past weeks members of working group II intensively developed a business model concept to tackle mismanaged plastic waste with the help of local private recycling actors. Corresponding to the project’s working packages a pilot study will be conducted to implement and evaluate this new business model. During March 2024 several meetings with involved stakeholders resulted in the official kick-off for the pilot study on business model implementation. KCC officials and representatives from the local recycling sector fortunately assured their commitment and contribution for this endeavour.

Establishment of Knowledge Transfer Hub (KTH) Ensures Sustainable Operation Beyond SCIP Plastics Project Duration

The establishment of the Knowledge Transfer Hub (KTH) stands as one of the pivotal goals within the SCIP Plastics Project. Following its successful inauguration in November 2023, our project partner at KUET, led by Dr. Muhammed Alamgir and Dr. Rafizul Islam, has accomplished the integration of the whole compartment (KTH and Waste Lab) into the university’s organizational structure (organogram). Under the new name “Waste Research Laboratory”, this integration secures its operation throughout the project’s lifespan. Consequently, the compartment will receive ongoing funding for operations, maintenance, and staffing. All project partners express their delight at this development and extend their gratitude for the dedication of Dr. Muhammed Alamgir.

Waste collection at Mongla and Chittagong Port

In December 2023 waste from local vessels both at Mongla Port and Chittagong Port were collected. A team of researchers from working group IV distributed waste bags to 90 ship crews and asked for their cooperation. For three to ten days the crew members did not discharge their wastes but collected them in the provided waste bags and additionally participated in a survey. Overall, the waste from 37 local vessels could be collected. The waste was sorted manually by the researches after collection and the plastic fraction was analysed using near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy to determine the plastic types. The results of the waste sorting and NIR analysis are now being processed and will be used, among others, to develop waste flow diagrams of the Port areas.

Monitoring plan for Rajbandh open dump site

Over the last year, WG III investigated various processes and activities at the Rajbandh open dump site, the only active final waste disposal site for Khulna city. Now, the team will start monitoring and quantifying plastic emissions in the form of wind-blown litter and washed-out material. On 13.11.2023, the WG III team, Pangkaj Kumar, Salahuddin Setu, Tasnova Imam, Saptarshi Mondal and Senta Berner visited the disposal site and outlined a first monitoring protocol, as well as necessary improvements along the fence line and embankments to ensure quantifiable sample collection. The team also tested a drone which will be part of the monitoring, especially to gauge the impact of extreme weather events on waste body movement and plastic emissions.

Inauguration of Research Hub building at KUET

On the 9th of November 2023, the civil engineering faculty of KUET inaugurated their new research hub building. The building will host the SCIP Plastics Knowledge Transfer Hub, including all working group members and the Waste Lab. Prof. Eckhard Kraft and Gregor Biastoch joined the celebration as special guests and speakers in the inauguration panel.
The hub building and its facilities are fully dedicated to the research field of solid and plastic waste management showing KUET’s commitment to address this issue in the coming years.

Board of Directors Meeting in Cox’s Bazar

The 3rd Board of Directors meeting was hosted by the CUET SCIP-team and took place in Cox’s Bazar on the 4th of November. The project leaders, Prof. Eckhard Kraft (BUW), Prof. Farzana Zuthi (CUET), Prof. Rafizul Islam (KUET) and Mr. Abir Ul Jabbar (KCC), as well as scientific experts reviewed and discussed the project progress presented by the working group leads and heads of the waste lab and awareness center. As an extraordinary member of the scientific expert panel, Prof. Jörg Londong (BUW) gave valuable insights to further improve project outputs.

Board of Directors Meeting, 04.11.2023 (source: Gregor Biastoch)

Networking Meeting Marine:DeFRAG

As representatives of the SCIP-team, the BUW team participated in the networking meeting of the funding program “Marine:DeFRAG” on October 16, 2023, organized by Zukunft – Umwelt – Gesellschaft (ZUG) gGmbH. The one-day event provided a platform for intense exchange of experiences and discussions on innovative solutions. The event particularly focused on discussing various monitoring methods and the intelligent use of eco-design and alternative materials.

The morning session was dedicated to intensive exchanges on the topic of “Monitoring”. Project implementers presented their diverse approaches to the investigation of different plastic fractions, leading to inspiring discussions and synergies. After the lunch break, the afternoon continued with a focus on “Waste prevention through intelligent use of eco-design and alternative materials”.

The event emphasized the role of participants as central actors who shared their experiences through short presentations. This interactive form of exchange not only facilitated the sharing of best practices but also promoted collective reflection on challenges and solutions.

The successful networking meeting strengthened collaboration and the joint effort against marine litter. We look forward to integrating the insights gained into our ongoing project and continuing to actively contribute to addressing this global environmental crisis.

Workshops on future visions for sustainable plastic waste management

From October 1st to 3rd, the Awareness Centre team comprising Sheikh Enjamamul Haque, Ankon Singh, Fahima Akter, S. M. Nahin Rahaman, Md. Mobashar Hossain and Md. Shimul, along with ISOE researchers Dr.-Ing. Martin Zimmermann and Jonathan Pillen, facilitated two workshops. The main objective was to develop future visions for sustainable plastic waste management in Khulna.

Stakeholders from different fields of expertise came together to create visual maps of the most important aspects of plastic waste management in Khulna. In a first session, the current situation was discussed and mapped, with a particular focus on problematic aspects that might currently hinder more sustainable solutions, e.g. lack of awareness or lack of infrastructure. In a second session, these ‘problem maps’ were used as a starting point. Participants then identified necessary changes to the current system to achieve a sustainable and desirable future vision of plastic waste management in Khulna. Both workshops – the first in English, the second in Bangla – were successful not only in terms of the scientific data generated, but also in terms of the knowledge transfer and a shared understanding among the various participants. And last but not least: The use of constellation analysis combined with a world café format resulted in a mindful exchange and even some fun.