Much has been written about the 7000x365 tons annual garbage productions by Sri Lanka and there have been a lot of discussion on the measures to deal with the mountains of waste in an environmentally friendly manner.

But has Sri Lanka paid enough attention to the sanitation employee who has to collect all that trash and noted that their numbers are fast depleting?

With the average age of this work force well over 50, a high percentage of the current teams would most likely leave within the next few years. The likelihood of new entrants in to the cleaning profession is less likely given the tediousness of the tasks involved and prospects for opportunities in other fields. Thus Sri Lanka stands to face two dilemmas –one the mountains which keep mounting and on the other hand the ever decreasing sanitation work force.

Outside the main cities only a skeletal staff  is tasked with the cleaning in virtually every town. – a work load far beyond their capacity. The situation in cities could not be better, with high absenteeism and turnover making a serious dent in the effectiveness.

Poor remuneration coupled with insufficient gear adds to the massive burden of manually handling hundreds of tons of content in a daily basis.

Final outcome of the current state of affairs would be the erosion of efficiency in their work, as what’s seen  at the moment.

The indifferent attitude of the population at large is not helping in the streamlining of the waste disposal process. The average household /business establishment in Sri Lanka does very little sorting of garbage into different categories, making it an impossible task for the sanitation staff to do the task that’s actually ours for doing. The end result is that a  huge load of our garbage ends in landfills without any type of sorting.

And therein lies the tragedy. It might have been the reason why Sri Lanka is high in the list as a plastic polluter.

The garbage problem  is likely to continue in Aruwakkadu, our much harped solution to garbage in the western province. Possibility of unsorted waste being dumped in the vicinity of the last wilderness region of Sri Lanka looks to be a foregone conclusion.

Way out of the vicious cycle of our waste problem could be multifaceted ,but one vital part of the strategy has to be the workforce management and systems in place to motivate this highly crucial human resource.

(KS)