BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – By 2024 Brunei will have to manage 4.5 million tonnes of waste, but the country still lacks adequate waste management policies, said a Universiti Brunei Darussalam academic.

This is chiefly due to lack of sufficient data, said Gabriel Yong, who teaches geography and environment at the university. 

Data sharing is important in environmental governance or management but Brunei cannot carry out proper research due to lack of funds, he told The Scoop in a recent interview.

“In order to cope with the increasing amount of waste produced, Brunei’s waste disposal policies must be sensible and tailored to the country, and continuous monitoring systems must be put in place,” Yong said. 

According to the Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation (JASTRe), approximately 400-500 tonnes of waste are delivered to the Sungai Paku landfill everyday, but there is no data on the country’s five other landfills. 

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JASTRE estimates that 189,000 tonnes of solid waste disposed every year, 16 percent of which is plastic.

There are no national estimates on the amount of waste that is recycled. Recycling companies in Brunei ship materials such as plastics, metals and papers overseas for processing because there are no recycling plants set up in the sultanate.

Yong said while Bruneians may be well-versed in global environment issues, they still lack knowledge about issues directly relevant to them due to lack of data and research.

“Our role in the government is to do research and teach, and we prefer to teach our students based on what is real and what is happening in Brunei.”

With the “no plastic bag” movement gaining momentum in the sultanate — bolstered by several developed countries proposing a ban on single-use plastics — the UBD lecturer added that the root cause of plastic pollution needed to be studied closer.

“When you trace the movements of these plastic bags and uncover the root of the problem, more often than not it is the old age problem of littering,” he said.

Indiscriminate dumping is still commonplace in Brunei with fines relatively low. The government spent $1.2million a year to manage and maintain rubbish dumpsites.

Yong acknowledged that campaigning against littering is a difficult thing to do. “The best way is to target where it can be control — you must have better system of education and better waste disposal facilities,” he said.