Iftekhar Enayetullah

Waste Concern
Year founded: 

IdeasLab Video

Waste Concern improves waste recycling in Asia through composting and Integrated Resource Recovery Centres (IRRCs) that provide organic fertilizer, green energy, and jobs, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Focus: Environment, Waste Management, Renewable Energy, Climate Change
Geographic Area of Impact: Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal
Model: Hybrid Non-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 684,890 (2010)
Annual Budget: US$ 345,000 (2010)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 45%
Recognition: Schwab Fellows of the World Economic Forum

Over seven million people live in Dhaka, producing +4,000 tons of waste daily. The city collects less than half of this amount, leaving the remainder on roadsides, in open drains and in low-lying areas, resulting in a negative impact on the city environment. It is estimated that the population of Dhaka will be 19.5 million by 2015, and as the population increases it will become very difficult to find landfill sites for the waste. Moreover, as the city expands, the cost of transporting waste will increase dramatically.

Innovation and Activities
Waste Concern (WC) collects household waste and takes it to community-run composting plants and IRRCs to be turned into organic fertilizer and biogas. WC then arranges for fertilizer companies to purchase and market the compost-based bio-fertilizers nationally. Each year, WC produces 7,500 of compost in Dhaka and 8,087 tons in other parts of Bangladesh, while fertilizer companies estimate that per annum farming demand has risen to 50,000 tons. Annually, the technology used for composting can treat up to 35,000 tons of waste while also reducing emissions by 20,000 tons of carbon dioxide.

Since early 2004, Waste Concern has been purchasing land to establish compost plants instead of depending upon public agencies. It has attracted foreign direct investment through carbon trading using the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol, leading to an agreement with a Dutch company to develop two CDM-based projects: a 700 ton per-day composting project in three phases, and a landfill gas extraction/utilization project in Dhaka. The world’s first CDM-based composting project, which has a capacity to recycle 100 tons of waste per day, is already in operation.

WC is assisting cities in Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Nepal and Vietnam in replicating their model. A regional recycling training centre was opened in Dhaka in 2010 for the benefit of local and international participants. With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and UNESCAP, the WC model is being implemented in 10 Asian and 10 African cities, and a revolving fund has been created to assist cities establishing IRRCs to address solid waste management problems by harnessing carbon financing. The fund is expected to be operational by early 2012.

The Entrepreneurs
Born and raised in Dhaka, Maqsood Sinha is an urban planner and architect. Iftekhar Enayetullah, also from Bangladesh, is an urban planner and civil engineer. The two met while doing graduate research on urban waste management and decided to work together to develop programmes in this area. Initially, the two young entrepreneurs sought to convince government agencies to develop community-based composting plants, even promising free consulting services to support governmental efforts, but they were turned down. A government official suggested they create their own community-managed compost plants, so they founded Waste Concern.

Sinha and Enayetullah were awarded the 2002 UN Poverty Eradication Award for the Asia-Pacific region. Other honours include the Outstanding Professionals Award, from the Institution of Engineers Bangladesh (2003), and Fast Company’s Fast 50 Leadership award (2003).