The Jigsaw puzzle of waste management

The garbage issue in Bangalore is slowly becoming so overwhelming, that one wonders – can there ever be solutions, and where do we start ? Our hope lies in everyone doing their bit, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that fit together.

So, where should we start ? A lot of people have already done so. The BBMP has given out detailed guidelines on how to treat the different streams of waste. Let us begin by practicing these rules religiously. Never mind that the back-end solutions such as collection, transportation are still to fall in place. They will, in due course, but that is no excuse for us not to do our bit. Rome was not built in a day.

And what next ? The issue is a highly complex one, especially as we are talking about the waste generated by a population of 8.5 million people daily. What we need to realize, most urgently, is that waste has to be professionally managed, whether it is at the level of the apartment complex, the neighbourhood, the zone or the city. Every generator has to be held responsible for how much waste is generated, where it is being sent, and what is being done with it. Every contractor and treatment facility must be part of a strict monitoring process and must adhere to standard operating procedures.

Some of the solutions are not so difficult to implement – if we were for example, to ensure that all leaf litter, twigs and branches, are strictly not permitted to leave the neighbourhood, we would, I am sure save at least 10 to 15 % (maybe even more) of the organic waste from the landfill. They can very easily shredded and composted in our numerous parks. Dry waste collection centres, of which there are quite a few in the city now, can receive all the dry materials such as plastic, paper, metal, glass and e waste can be managed. If such centres receive only source segregated material, then cleanliness and hygiene can be ensured. And the acceptance of the community to their existence would be assured. The Centre operated by Full Circle in Anandnagar, Hebbal is one such example. Centres must have standard facilities such as fire extinguishers and other standard equipment. Any institution practising zero waste management must be recognized for doing so. For eg: they could be given a rebate in their taxes or provided a free collection facility for the rejects, which would be only for the minimum of 10 % of the total waste generated.

A number of categories of waste still do not have disposal/treatment solutions – thermocole, ceramic sanitary ware etc. Some categories of waste such as biscuit wrappers and chips packets do not have established channels for recycling. Industry must urgently get into the act and find solutions as part of their producer responsibility.

And last but not least – let us think of the people who help us deal with our waste. Pourakarmikas, waste pickers, people who work in landfills and composting units and so on. Let us do our bit by following the rules of segregation strictly. They deserve our consideration and empathy.

Anjana Iyer is the Trustee of Full Circle, a non profit organization working on sustainable waste management. The views expressed here are her own.

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