Association acting for the cleaning of waste in Nepal, the education of children and the reduction of air pollution


Interested in waste management and the environment, but more importantly, the intern must understand the local context. This organization needs passionate and skilled workers.

We met Amod in Katmandu, in the office of Clean Up Nepal. He is a board member and works on this project full time.

This association was founded by Dr Neelam Pradhananga after her studies in Sydney where she discovered the clean up movement. Doing here PhD on Nepali culture, she went to Nepal and was shocked by the amount of trash in the streets. She started clean ups in 2011 and got associated with World Clean Up Day in 2013.

On the first clean up day in 2014, she was expecting 500 people. But 15,000 came. It showed the concern of the Nepali people.

Following these events, in 2015, the NGO was created and they started working on different topics: “Why is the rubbish here in the first place?”, “What is the trash collection system?”. Those questions needed answers in order to be able to solve the waste management problem in Katmandu. They keep on participating in clean ups but put an emphasis on the change in mentalities through education.

Their first objective is to help Kathmandu solve its waste management problem. But the work needed in the villages is completely different so they stick to educating the population for now. Indeed, there is no transportation to evacuate the waste. Thus, it is buried or burned on site.

Understanding the context is key

In the streets, a lot of everyday products don’t have a recyclable packaging, from crisps’ bags to candy wrappers. They tried speaking to big Nepali industries about their packaging and how they could transition to more sustainable ones. The problem is that the packaging used for their products is the cheapest available and they claim that even a slight change would impact the prices. For Amod, the only solution is consumer pressure.

For over 35 years, Nepal has been supported by NGOs trying to solve these issues. But not understanding the context leads to ineffective actions, this is why a local action is the only way to find a long term solution.

Nepal’s waste management system

One of the first thing Clean Up Nepal had to do was to understand the local system.

Kathmandu’s waste is handled by two major stakeholders:

  • More than 33 private companies go around Kathmandu and collect the waste. They segregate it and sell what can be sold. You have to pay for a membership card (260 NPR per kitchen being 2,09€) so your waste is collected monthly. This subscription is mandatory so some companies help the police identify the people still burning their waste to make them new members of their collection system.
  • Informal workers also do door-to-door waste collection. They pay to pick up the recyclable waste that can be sold to recycling companies.

These two systems are in good cohabitation for now and many households are using both simultaneously. Clean Up Nepal works with the municipality to find a way to make people segregate their waste. Doing so, more waste could be recycled, the membership could be cheaper and the pickups could be more frequent.

How the association is acting

Clean Up Nepal is a team of 7 board members directing interns and volunteers, actively working on three major projects :

Nepal waste map

An app centralising the information on the waste management system in Katmandu. With information such as: where are the nearest dustbins, which are the companies segregating their waste, when should your waste be picked up…

This app is directed towards the government, the waste companies and the public. It should be a way to start a dialogue between the waste companies and the public. The app also helps the private waste management companies identify the households which haven’t yet subscribed to their services.

Zero waste at school

After trying to teach whole communities, they realised that the best way was to begin with the younger generation. They developed a program to teach students, teachers and the school staff and are working with the government to include it in the curriculum. All of them are taught to store the paper waste so it can be picked up and they even can get a little money out of it. To fund this project, they make money in richer schools to teach the program in poorer ones.

They give a broadcast small videos and give leaflets filled with advice to manage the waste with Nepali animated characters so the kids can relate. The work with the kids helps them stay motivated because the change in their behaviour is instantly visible. They suggest new ideas and teach their parents to change their ways.

Air pollution program

Kathmandu valley’s topography traps the air above the city, causing health issues. Only 5% of Kathmandu’s air pollution is caused by waste burning so action in other fields is needed. They try to find a way to reduce vehicle emissions by leading a collaboration between the road department, the police department and transport department.

And for the future ?

Their goal is not to develop but to complete the task they’ve given themselves within 10 years. In the meantime, they want to provide the people working in the organization with opportunities. They want new leaders to help develop the project with fresh ideas and motivation.

The association is currently funded by 5 organizations. They only get funds for specific actions and they look forward to being more independent in the future. Transitioning to a social enterprise could be a solution.

From the beginning, the team of cleanup Nepal decided that clean ups weren’t enough. What’s the point of cleaning if it is already dirty the day after? A solution based awareness is what their are looking for to help solve this problem for good.


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