Scrap dealers face the brunt of the pandemic

Dealers say it would be cost effective to export scrap via Phuentsholing

Ever since the export of scrap materials were stopped via Phuentsholing in the wake of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, scrap dealers have been struggling to dispose of the waste effectively, with many mulling over closing their business for the time being.

With warehouses already full, dealers have stopped buying additional scraps from the local people, which could potentially contribute to the waste problems in the township, not to mention the suspension of plastic and polythene terephthalate export to India.

While some dealers have opted to sell a few scrap varieties directly to the industries in Pasakha, a major chunk of their stock still have to be exported to the recycling plants in Kolkata, India. In utter desperation, some dealers have even been exploring the Gelephu route, despite the exorbitant transportation charges, just to fulfill their commitment to their counterparts in India.

Tashi Wangchuk, a scrap dealer in Phuentsholing, stopped buying or exporting scrap materials for some time now and claimed that his business has been severely hampered by the pandemic.

“Earlier the export of scraps was much easier with open border but with the onset of the pandemic, there is no place to export,” he said, “Although, Pasakha is a viable alternative, we are only able to sell beer bottles there.”

Further, the situation has taken a major toll on his financial health, where he had to borrow money from his friends to pay his rent. Currently, he is only able to sell about 120 bags of beer bottles to Pasakha every day, which is way inadequate to stay afloat.

“It is our sincere request to the government to allow us to export scraps from Phuentsholing, which is not only cost effective but also time saving,” he said, adding that scrap dealership in particular has been hit hard by the pandemic, which caused over three months lockdown in the border town.

Another scrap dealer, Kezang Norbu, has been routing his trucks through Gelephu, from where the scrap materials are transferred to the Indian trucks bound for Kolkata, India.

“Besides time consuming, the transportation cost is almost double compared to exporting it directly via Phuentsholing border,” he said, adding that every week he sends two to three truckloads of scraps via Gelephu route.

When asked how much freight charge he pays per truck, he said Nu 30,000 till Gelephu and an additional Nu 33,000 till the recycling plants in Kolkata.

“The profit generated is totally consumed by the freight charges,” he said, worried about the future of his business if the government does not intervene and relax the restriction.

Other scrap dealers that Business Bhutan talked to also reiterated the same concern, while pointing out how Indian police stationed at the border stopped the export of plastic materials to India.

“While we are able to dispose of bottles and some scrap metals to the industries in Pasakha, plastic materials have been piling up, eating away the little space we have in our warehouse,” said another dealer.

Meanwhile, massive waste products from the town residents pour in daily but in absence of a place to sell, the scrap dealers are in a state of dilemma.

Sonam Tashi from Phuentsholing