Zero waste to landfills

Zero waste to landfills

Zero waste to landfills
Battling the recurring garbage crises has never been Bengaluru’s forte. The daily output exceeds 6,000 MT, and yet, the city has no clue managing the waste smartly. How does it then plan to tackle an estimated 18,390 MT of garbage by 2031?

The Revised Master Plan 2031, now in public consultation mode, talks about the need for more land for landfills. Is that an admission of defeat? Why the fixation with landfills when the earlier plans had stressed on segregation, recycling and by implication, a drastic reduction in trucks heading out?      

Poor segregation record
Despite well publicized campaigns, segregation of waste at source has not picked up pace. Local, ward-level treatment of waste has largely remained on paper. Meanwhile, the powerful corporator-official-garbage contractor nexus remains strong as ever, determined to keep the trucks loaded.

In 2009, when the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) prepared a Solid Waste Management Master Plan, the waste generated was taken as 5,033 MT / day. Inclusive of domestic waste, bulk generators and street sweeping, this translated to 644 grams per capita per day (gpcd).

The RMP-2031 has calculated that a 1.3% annual increase will take the per capita waste generation to 905 gpcd in the next 14 years. Even if 58% of the total waste is biodegradable, 30% will have to be dumped for which land is to be identified.

Poor implementation has plagued all the previous master plans. RMP-2031 too is destined for failure if it does not make the provisions of the existing Solid Waste Management (SWM) rules implementable. “We have so much planning. But where is the enforcement? The existing policy, which talks about decentralized ward-wise waste management is very good on paper,” reminds Wilma Rodrigues from Saahas, working on progressive SWM policies.

Localised management
Existing technologies have made localized waste management easier today. “But on the ground, even the segregation is in a start-stop situation. Not much enforcement has happened in the last six months,” Wilma points out. Bulk generators, who contribute almost 40% of the city’s waste, are not forced to manage the garbage locally. “Why are tech-parks so resistant to the policy? On an average, every tech park in the city generates about 5-6 MT daily. They have the space, and the technology is affordable,” she says.

Poor implementation of the plastic ban is another factor, contends Meenakshi Ravi, a waste management activist. “A lot of packing material in the market today are not recyclable, the biscuit packets, shampoo sachets and more. Much of the waste littered on the streets is low-value dry waste,” she explains. There is no defined end destination of the low-value plastic / dry waste. The collection centres do not accept these. Eventually, they end up in landfills or lakes, notes Meenakshi.

Volumetric measurement
Plans and policies can work better if the waste generated is measured in terms of both weight and volume. A study by Saahas found that a container that can carry one ton of wet waste can hold only 1/5th of dry waste or 50kgs of thermocol. “The focus has to shift to volumetric composition of waste.”

There is no authoritative study on treatment of high value dry waste in the city. Questions such as how much of it goes through how many cycles of recycling remain unanswered. There is also no clarity on the biodegradable plastic, which can potentially decompose only in a controlled environment.

These issues have hardly cropped up in the RMP-2031 public consultation meets organized by the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA). But a parallel consultation process undertaken as part of the Bengaluru Blueprint project had citizens and domain experts list out several measures to boost SWM.

Zero waste strategies
Their unanimous suggestion is this: Move towards enforceable zero waste strategies with five-year goals. Mandate segregation at source, at household level and decentralise recycling of dry waste. Ensure that wet waste is composted at every ward individually, and dry and hazardous waste collected separately by autos/tippers for recycling.

There is a clear emphasis on a systematic engagement with Residents Welfare Associations, communities and citizens to achieve a higher percentage of segregation. Introduction of public bins segregated for dry and wet waste in all areas of Bengaluru especially at food courts/ darshinis is another suggestion.

Empowering pourakarmikas
Over 14,000 BBMP poura­karmikas and 9,000 workers employed by private garbage contractors are engaged in street sweeping and waste collection. One oft-heard complaint by citizens is that the segregated waste is mixed up to increase load in trucks. To address this apparent problem, why not empower the pourakarmikas to monetize the dry waste collected and thus incentivize the segregated collection. This is another suggestion that could make for better planning and enforcement.  

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