Turkmenistan’s First Private Waste Management Facility Promises a Brighter, More Sustainable Future

Oct. 14, 2021

Staff of Aslyhalal Waste Management Facility, Dinara far right (photo by QED)

Two years ago, 30-year-old Dinara was unemployed in her rural village in northeastern Turkmenistan when she heard about a job opportunity at a new waste processing facility nearby. With two children to support, she didn’t think twice about the implications of the new plant on her community; she was just excited to earn a living.

Now that the new facility has been operating for two years, she sees that the impact of her work reaches much further – to her children’s generation and beyond.

Today, the Aslyhalal Waste Management Facility processes 30,000 tons of solid waste each year and employs forty-five local residents. But as recently as 2019 there were no privately owned waste management resources operating in Turkmenistan with the capacity to process more than a few hundred tons of waste each year. The public waste management system was also limited; there was just one landfill to serve the entire district where Aslyhalal is now located, and no public recycling facilities. To reach internationally recognized standards for waste management, the country needed additional infrastructure. 

When Aslyhalal, a private domestic company, began working in Turkmenistan, it started by partnering with others involved in the country’s largest industry: petroleum extraction, processing, and export. Near the facility where Dinara works, the Bagtyarlyk natural gas fields are a driver of economic development that provides many families with comfortable incomes, but also produces petroleum byproducts that can be harmful if not properly disposed of. For example, if the oil sludge generated during natural gas extraction is not contained and incinerated, it can cause disastrous consequences for surrounding ecosystems. 

Shohrat Bazarov, owner of the Aslyhalal facility, envisioned a solution that addressed all these complex waste management challenges while providing opportunity for residents of rural regions. He worked for years to turn this vision into a reality, with the support of USAID. Beginning in 2017, USAID implementing partner, The QED Group supported a series of activities aimed at strengthening country-wide governance broadly, and waste management in particular. First, QED conducted a situation analysis and needs assessment that showed privately-owned waste management facilities could help address environmental concerns while fostering sustainable economic growth. Armed with this evidence, the team then conducted a series of consultations, workshops, and seminars to build support for this approach among various local and national stakeholders. 

In the northeastern Lebap region, these activities have paid off. “What USAID has done for us in waste management is a huge achievement. These programs have educated many different stakeholders, who have gained deep knowledge and experience and now see the value of waste management for our country,” Shohrat Bazarov says.

Current and future facilities (courtesy QED) 

With the importance of robust waste management infrastructure established and the first facility now operating, ramping up additional processing capacity is top of mind. The facility in Aslyhalal is one of five slated to open in the next two years – in all, these new sites will support the proper disposal of over a hundred thousand tons of waste each year. What’s more, Aslyhalal plans to expand the existing facility’s efficiency and impact, by adding biogas production equipment that turns waste into energy – to power even more benefits for the surrounding community.

But better waste management is about more than just the volume of waste processed and energy produced. 

Residents and employees like Dinara see that these facilities will ensure their children, grandchildren and future generations all get to live in clean and healthy villages and cities. “I’m proud of my work because it helps to clean the environment,” she says. “What we do here makes a small change locally, but will pave the way for a better environment across the country and around the world.”