Wasting Wisely

The fundamental question of solid waste management

By Malini Shankar

Digital Discourse Foundation

Dear Citizen,

If you want to have a clean neighbourhood it is essential for you and (me too) to keep it clean. By throwing garbage in a street corner expecting ‘someone’ to clear it is not just impolite and politically incorrect, but we as citizens are failing in our duty to keep the surroundings clean. Comments like “tax payers expect clean surroundings” cannot be seen in isolation given that the citizen is not doing one’s duty in responsibly disposing waste. India’s cultural legacy of caste based division of labour is not just inhuman and politically incorrect but utterly impractical in today’s age of unsustainable consumption and waste generation.

Neighbourhoods and towns and cities in South Asia are notorious for filth, litter, stench and stains all of which contribute to ill health as the outbreak of the Beubonic Plague in Surat in Gujarat in India in 1994 clearly proved. It led to an epidemic of Plague / Black Death taking the toll of 24 people’s lives within hours of the outbreak.

Why, a young lady – a teacher in the neighbourhood school (Achieve School of Education on K R Road in Basavanagudi, Bangalore) who parks her car in front of my house and gets it washed slyly at my father’s expense was caught red handed last week gingerly spilling out / deliberately unpacking vegetable peel in front of my house. When I confronted her she tossed her hair very fashionably, walked up to me, showed a thumbs up sign, and had the temerity to say it was biodegradable wastes and she had taken my mother’s permission to litter in front of our house! I demanded that she litter the place in front of her own house instead. Pity the quality of education she imparts, pity the children she teaches!!! I drafted a letter to the school principal that day. If my letter reached the school principal the lady would have lost her job. At that point I thought it maybe better to write about this in the media than endanger her livelihood security by giving in a written complaint.

The behaviour of this teacher was truly one of a kind. But then the problem of dumping of wastes has quite literally become a mountainous hassle plaguing public administration in India today. Whether it is because of unsustainable consumption or lack of diligent waste management is a moot point. Dumping unsegregated wastes is poisoning the groundwater table, incinerating plastics and recyclable material is emitting fumes at unsustainable levels contributing to increase in pollution and thereby increasing / contributing to global warming.

Any pollution is adding to climate change and is endangering future generations. So my dear citizen, please start small, by separating wastes and managing waste disposal responsibly.

If citizens want to do their two bits to the environment, then – like they say charity begins at home – it is good to start with doing one’s duty in separating wastes at home.

Ever wondered why foreign countries look so immaculately clean, spic and span? That is largely because in foreign countries or atleast in developed economies, solid waste management is a large part of the public administration and has large budgets. The citizen is expected to comply with regulations failing which citizens are fined and social stigma ostracises them.

In India and many parts of South Asia and Africa as well, the regulation for compliance of the citizen is missing and the citizen is clueless how to start. Partly the citizen is to blame for dereliction of separation of wastes at source. Equally the government / municipal administration is to blame for not providing adequate infrastructure for effective management of segregated wastes.

Unsegregated wastes are dumped at a quarry in Bengaluru, India leading to ground water pollution. © Myriam Shankar DDF

A third dimension is that there are many, many neighbourhood experiments and initiatives in segregating solid wastes but not all are standardised procedures, and, they certainly lack in awareness creation.

Lastly urban planners and legislators have not standardised packaging ware in conformity to recyclable standards of say Gruene Punkt { } like in the EU countries or recyclable standards { } in North America.

But let us start here by creating awareness of how to separate wastes. As consuming tax paying citizens we are legally obliged to separate wastes as a social responsibility to fellow human beings and animals.

We are legally, morally and socially obliged to separate wastes like:

Biodegradable / organic / wet wastes which should ideally include:

Kitchen wastes (vegetable and fruit peel, seeds, drenched coffee and tea powder, left over food, pungent foodstuffs, egg shells, fish scales, meat bones, feathers blood, animal entrails etc). Coconut shells need to be separated and they can be used for water heating through small sustainable boilers. However regulation forbids cow slaughter or animal slaughter at private homes in India. Legislation may differ regionally/ territorially. Biodegradable wastes can be composted and used for soil conservation in fallow agricultural lands, for watershed management in desertified and arid areas and for small biogas plants for small scale power generation … it is a successful experiment by the Centre for Sustainable technologies at the premier Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore India. Municipal authorities too need to make the effort to collect segregated wastes and disposing them off separately. The complaint one often hears from citizens is that “even if residents separate the wastes, collectors like the street sweepers or Pourakarmikas – as they are called in India dump them together in one big bin, defeating the purpose of waste segregation”.

Garden wastes: leaf litter, decaying flowers from household pooja rooms, temples, … anything biodegradable is ok for this; as long as plastic of any grade is not part of this heap.

Recyclable material includes:

· Newsprint: any printed paper, flyers, brochures, invitation cards – any printed paper not having documentation value have to be recycled … ideally as biodegradable packaging ware with lasting shelf life.

· High grade plastics ought to be recycled into secondary products like automated bicycles like the ones used in Europe. If we succeed in separating high grade plastics there is a ready market in the petrochemical industry for this niche market of high grade bicycles.

· Low grade plastics ought to be recycled into bitumen – which helps in laying tarred roads - can be especially useful in inadequately connected emerging economies of the South;

Landfills attract rodents and pests and can be the source of vector borne deadly infections. © UN Photo Library

Hazardous wastes: include:

Ø film and photographic wastes,

Ø chemical wastes like toilet cleansing agents and detergents (yes the chemicals in detergents washed away with clean potable water pollute water bodies and set water to fire like It is happening in the Bellandur lake in Bangalore in the past few years),

Ø batteries past the expiry dates,

Ø old discarded tube lights (because of the mercury content)

Ø coloured inks, and

Ø any consumable with fossil fuel ingredients are hazardous and needs to be collected, separately treated and then disposed of.

Biomedical wastes: like needles, used cotton swabs, organic wastes like blood, urine, saliva and stool samples, medicines, drips, anaesthetics, amputated limbs, decaying flesh etc need to be collected separately and treated before being incinerated in a controlled environment / autoclave. Polluter has to pay for the incineration as it affects emission targets negatively. This is an area that begs policy makers’ attention and engagement universally.

Reusable / Recyclable Wastes:

Must include:

Ø Bottles,

Ø clothes,

Ø high grade plastics,

Ø newsprint,

Depending on which category your wastes belong to, please start making the difference by starting waste segregation accordingly. By doing your duty you can demand legitimately effective SWM from the Municipal authorities. Landfilling should be undertaken only for biodegradable / wet / organic wastes with the express intention of creating mulch that can be reused for fallow agricultural lands. Recyclable wastes have to be recycled hygienically and reused with a manufacturing standard of ten years shelf life. Toilet wastes have to be drastically reduced to <3% per capita consumption per year as it has to be incinerated. In the European Union separate sanitary disposal bags of high grade plastics are made to collect incinerable wastes including sanitary towels that women use for menstruation. Once colour coded the collection becomes hygienic and sanitised. An interesting experiment (http://swachhindia.ndtv.com/simple-red-dot-menstrual-waste-can-change-sanitation-workers-life-2-5840/?pfrom=home-campaigns) in this regard was attempted in Pune.

Municipal authorities in turn have to work in four shifts. The early morning shift staff should be assigned only collection of biodegradable wastes. The second shift staff must collect only recyclables from earmarked bins at anointed places in the cities’ suburbs and CDB.

Urban planners need to allocate land resources for overall well-being / general good of cities with the CBD (Central Business District) being demarcated only for business and commercial establishments. Residential suburbs ought not to be clogged by units utilising hazardous wastes, and so on…

The third shift staff must collect only hazardous waste material and each of the separate trained staff must congregate their collections in anointed areas. Thereafter authorities must treat the wastes according to standard operating procedure as stipulated in best practices and legislative guidelines. The fourth shift staff must take vacuum cleaners and sterilise public places with automated trucks daily. Such automated trucks need to be manufactured locally to suit local environmental conditions.

Awareness needs to be created for citizens, industry leaders, media personnel, activists, anthropologists, policy makers and legislators, educationists etc. We are all stake holders in effective solid waste management if we have to make our neighbourhoods glean like those in foreign shores.

To Do List for Swatch Bharath Mission

By Malini Shankar

Digital Discourse Foundation:

To Do List for Swatch Bharath Mission

1. Install separate colour coded waste bins for collection of separate kinds of segregated wastes on the pavements at a distance of 300 metres all over the country: One for organic / biodegradable / wet wastes comprising kitchen wastes, food leftovers and garden litter / tree litter on roads and public spaces.

2. Separate bins for “dry wastes” with information displayed prominently as to what kinds of waste can go into these bins. Bulleted list must include 60 micron packaging wares, all high grade discarded plastics.

3. Separate colour coded bins of 10 metric tonnes for low grade < 20 micron plastics / packaging ware: These have to be shredded and recycled into separate by-products like bitumen.

4. Hazardous wastes including any manufactured stuff that uses any kind of hydrocarbon as a raw material, used and discarded batteries, nails, medicine bottles, film strips and negatives, any photographic material, paints residue, etc.

5. Hazardous waste bins have to also be maintained by all hospitals for stashing away securely hospital wastes like drip bottles, needles, amputated limbs, blood, tissue and urine samples etc. These hazardous hospital wastes have to be incinerated in an autoclave maintained by the Hospitals as part of the Extended Producer Responsibility.

6. Rejected wastes must be minimal and must include only toilet tissues, used and discarded condoms, discarded sanitary towels which by nature are unhygienic and have to necessarily be incinerated. Thus the lesser the emissions from unhygienic incinerable wastes, lesser the environmental pollution.

7. Cameras must be installed at a distance of every 100 metres so that the irresponsible waste criminals can be booked with the aid of technology. If the traffic police in Bengaluru could increase their revenue by booking traffic defaulters courtesy secret cameras – to the tune of Rs. 6000000 surely the revenue for municipal authorities from waste defaulters can not only be manifold but will deter them from irresponsible behaviour and also simultaneously keep the environment clean. These cameras must also be equipped with biometric scanners to be able to identify the culprits on the go and to transmit information to enforcement agencies. Sounds like Sci-fi I know! But doable and a must and should affair for India any way.

8. Appointment of Green police or volunteer Brigade / SWM wardens to work in conjunction with municipal authorities with biometric scanners for upkeep of the waste management standards.

9. Lastly intense public awareness campaigns / public service announcements in different languages and media to reach every single citizen.

Interview mit Fr. Lisa Dressman, Forscher, Dressden, Germany (German)

1. Koennten Sie uns bitte eine groben Ueberblick ueber die Deutsche Muellwirtschaft geben ?

Im Prinzip wird in Deutschland alles getrennt gesammelt und wenn möglich recycelt .

Zuständig für das Abfallmanagment sind die Kommunen.

2. Was muss der normale Verbraucher fuer die allgemeingueltige Muelltrennung machen?

Als erstes muss man sich anmelden beim Abfall Unternehmen , Angaben wieviel Personen im Haushalt leben , welche Art von Tonne gewünscht wird und in welcher Größe.

3. In welche Kategorien muessen Sie ihren Muell trennen?

· Kunststoffabfälle – gelbe Tonne

· Garten- und Küchenabfälle – braune Tonne ( Biotonne)

· Restmüll – schwarze Tonne

· Altpapier – blaue Tonne

· Altglas wird an speziellen Sammelpunkten in großen Behältern kostenfrei gesammelt, getrennt nach Grün- Weiss- und Braunglas

· Bekleidung wird ebenfalls kostenfrei an Sammelpunkten in speziellen Containern gesammelt

· Für die Entsorgung von Sperrmüll gibt es pro Haushalt einmal im Jahr eine kostenfreie Abholung von 4m3.

· Ansonsten gibt es Wertstoffhöfe wo man gegen Gebühr alle anderen Abfälle (z.B. Batterien, Chemikalien, Gartenabfälle , Sperrmüll, Bauschutt) abgeben kann.

4. Wohin werfen oder uebergeben Sie ihren Muell nachdem sie ihn getrennt haben?

Der Müll wird in den entsprechenden Tonnen gesammelt und meist im zweiwöchigen Modus von der Abfallwirtschaft abgeholt. Die zu entleerende Tonne wird an diesem Tag auf die Strasse gestellt.

5. Was passiert, wenn Sie keinen Platz fuer eine BIO Tonne haben?

Das kann ich mir nicht vorstellen, dass kein Platz da sein sollte, aber es gibt sicher auch Menschen die diesen speziellen Abfall in die Restmülltonne werfen.

Die Biotonne ist auch keine Pflichttonne, Grundstückseigentümer können auch die Bioabfälle selbst kompostieren

6. Bitte erzaehlen Sie uns ihre normale Muell management routine, was machen Sie oder wohin kommen die einzelnen Kategorien hin … Flaschen, Papier, Gelbers Punkt … BIO Abfall, Batterien, Gartenabfall, chemisch gefaehlicher Abfall, wie Farbe etc.

Ich habe auf meinem Grundstück eine Restmülltonne und eine gelbe Tonne die im 2 wöchigen Modus geleert wird. Für Altpapier, Altglas, Bekleidung habe ich separate Behälter , die ich je nach Füllmenge an zentralen Sammelpunkten in die entsprechenden Container einwerfe.

Biomüll kompostiere ich auf meinem Grundstück. Schnittgut von Hecken und Bäumen zerhäcksle ich und verwende es ebenso auf meinem Grundstück

Für Bauschutt, Sperrmüll rufe ich beim Wertstoffhof an und ordere einen Container, der natürlich gebührenpflichtig ist.

Sherly Setyawati on waste segregation in Surabaya, Indonesia in conversation with Malini Shankar, Digital Discourse Foundation.

1. What are the guidelines for segregation of solid household wastes in Surabaya and Juanda in East Java Indonesia?

I don’t know the guidelines for this but all I know that know lots of housewives are told to try reusing plastic waste.

2. Are residents / citizens expected to segregate wastes like biodegradable / wet wastes like kitchen waste, leaf litter, food left overs, animal entrails?

Yes, government expects citizens to segregate waste based on dry or wet waste.

3. Is it permissible to slaughter animals at home in Indonesia?

No. It is not allowed to slaughter animals at home. Actually we have special place for this and it is managed by government.

4. Are citizens expected to compost such biodegradable wet wastes?

Yes, but only some who did compost. In Surabaya in every park, government tries to make pits for wastes to be mixed with rain water.

5. What are the other categories of waste segregation if at all?

(Don’t know)

6. How are plastics segregated?

Yes, we segregate plastics too, based on the material / grade of plastic.

7. Are plastics reused/ recycled?

Yes, plastic also reused - usually made into detergent bag; what we recycle becomes wallet, shopping bag or house decorations.

8. What about Bottles? Are bottles recycled / reused through a returning process for recycling?

Plastic also segregated. In my neighbourhood we collect plastic bottles every Sunday and we take it to the other place where they make waste bank so they can borrow some money from selling their waste. Bottles are recycled to become plastic seeds then process to make Dacron’s (for pillow and mattresses).

9. What are the alternatives to plastics being popularised in Indonesia?

(Don’t know).

10. How do you discard household hazardous wastes like used batteries / films, etc?

Just put it into waste basket.

11. What are the regulations for disposal of biomedical wastes like needles, testing strips, blood and urine samples etc for those who test it at home? For needles waste I don’t know but the rest we just straight put it into waste basket.

12. Are there rules and regulations for packaging ware like biodegradable cartons etc in Indonesia?

For rules and regulations for packaging that’s I never know but suggestions for segregation … I heard about that.

Expert Interview Professor Chanakya Hoysall, Centre for Sustainable technologies, Indian Institute of science, Bangalore (Audio)

Expert Interview (Audio) with Mrs. Myriam Shankar, Solid Waste Management Round Table, Trustee of the Anonymous Indian Charitable Trust, Bangalore

Press Releases and Research Material

SWM challenge in Brazil en_10.pdf
SWM challenge in Brazil Portuguese_10.pdf
Citizen SWM charter- sep 24_2017.pdf

Media on Demand Documentaries

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