Anyone heard of the garbage detectives?

Anyone heard of the garbage detectives?

Moms and dads are creatures of habit. Just as they’ll never learn all the features on that smartphone, however hard you try to teach them, segregating garbage seems hard to them. So YOU start out

How many of you get this desperate call from either of your parents? “Rohaaaaaaan! How do I send a telephone number as an SMS? Quick, this is urgent!”

And then Rohan, Bablu, Nikita or whoever you happen to be, strolls in, sends the telephone number as a business card — all the time grumbling, “Pa, I’ve shown you how to do this maybe 22 times…!” rolls his or her eyes in exasperation at parental slowness in learning technology, and moves on.

The same happens for all emergencies on laptops, notebooks, PCs and sometimes even the TV remote. Well, there are other matters in which kids tend to be a lot smarter than their parents. The environment, for one.

Grown-ups are just too much into the habit of spitting paan, throwing out garbage on roads, cleaning-the-house-but-messing-the-street-outside, and a whole lot of habits that seem to have come down to us from maybe 1500 years ago.

It couldn’t be an older bad habit because the Indus Valley Civilisation was the first in the world to have a city plan with an elaborate network of sewage drains from individual houses.

Start the Garbage Gang

Here’s where you can step in. If you’re in an apartment building, get together all the kids who come down to play and talk about how each of you can begin segregating garbage at home.

Start small. Hang a bright plastic bag on the kitchen door, with ‘Plastics’ written on it in a red sketch pen. Now tackle the domestic help, the cook and your Ma, gradually. After you’ve placed your packet in an accessible place, help your Ma or Dad unpack after a trip to the supermarket.

That’s when the most plastic is generated. Cut open the rice packet, empty the rice into the dabba on the shelf, and the rice packet goes into YOUR packet marked ‘Plastics’ and NOT into the main bin full of other waste. Do the same with the dal, chilli, oats and cornflakes packets.

After just one trip to the shops, your segregated ‘Plastics’ packet will be quite full. Volunteer your services by saying something dramatic like, “Unpacking shopping is MY responsibility!” When your folks see how serious you are about segregation, week after week, they’ll also take it a bit more seriously.

WHY segregate?

From your textbooks you’ve learnt all about how long plastics take to bio-degrade, so that’s one reason. Now here’s the other. Have you seen kids your age roaming the streets of Bangalore rummaging in the garbage dumps?

They are poor and often homeless; but rather than beg, they are trying to earn a living. They look for anything that’s recyclable from your garbage. This they sell to the local raddiwalla and can hope to make anything from Rs 75-Rs 100 per day. Just enough to live on.

If you and your friends pick out all that’s recyclable before hand, you could think of something like this: Discuss with your building’s maintenance manager how you could get the recyclers  to come once a week and collect the pre-segregated plastics. By doing this, you will have the satisfaction of helping to make their lives a little easier AND preventing a whole lot of plastics going into a landfill.

‘The Ugly Indian’

For those of you who want to do a lot, lot more than just segregating home-waste, check out this delightful group that has started cleaning up Bangalore with some very cool ideas…they call themselves ‘The Ugly Indian’! For one, they do not go around lecturing people, but actually get down to work, often collecting garbage themselves. Their motto is ‘Kaam chalo; mooh bandh’! Visit their website,

Follow them on Facebook so that you can actually join them when they set out to clean a particular messy corner of Bangalore.

Garbage detectives

In one particular case that The Ugly Indians (TUIs, from now on) have documented online, they report on how they work. Every morning, a pile of open litter was always noticed at a corner of MG Road. This was just prior to the opening of the Metro station.

TUI sleuths inspected the garbage and from the bills and packets, identified seven ‘suspects’ i.e., shops close by. But further investigation showed that three of the shops collected their garbage and stored it safely in the basement for the BBMP truck to collect the following morning.

Further questioning of night-watchmen uncovered one sad culprit — an old ragpicker who came at 6 in the morning, searched through the neatly stocked garbage but left it in a mess on the pavement as she moved on.

The TUI solution finally included keeping the old rag-picker also happy. And by the time the Metro station opened, all the shops close by had joined together to keep their pavement spotless.

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