Install underground bins for a clean city

The short walk to my office through the main road is witness to a few old trees stoically braving modernisation, casting their shade on the commuters. This street is home to quite a few eateries catering to the office goers’ needs; the sidewalks are well laid to walk.

Of late, a heap of garbage has found its way on to the footpath on one side, spreading itself day by day. The mound appears to be the selected spot to tip all the garbage from the neighbourhood for the collecting truck to pick up. The plight of the civic workers is pitiful - with no proper handling gear, they often rake the mounds and fill the truck with bare hands and shoeless feet. What remains later, is the remnant of a clumsy job done, leaving trails of putrid water, stench and numerous health hazards.

Even if some areas do have bins, they are not of enough capacity and soon overflow. This has become a familiar sight in many localities around Bengaluru, sadly earning it the name of garbage city. I often wondered if there could be a better way of collecting garbage from the streets.

What I came across recently, opens up the possibility of a good solution - installing underground garbage bins. If implemented effectively, we will see cleaner streets and a hygienic way of handling garbage.

In Hyderabad, two corporate giants — Kamineni Hospitals and Ramky Associates — have taken the initiative and invested in the project. Importing technology and equipment from the UK, they are working in association with the government and installing 100 underground bins across the city to combat a similar garbage issue.

Earlier, as a part of the Swachh Bharat scheme, Uttarakhand received its first such unit in July 2016. These cities are employing them on a big scale. The novel idea of underground garbage collection first developed in a few western nations around the mid-nineties. Catching up, many countries have now adapted to these methods. Finland and Norway are said to employ extensively developed underground bin system, so much so that it is impossible to find public spaces without such collection bins.

An underground waste bin incorporates a large capacity (around 1 metric tonne) container placed under the ground and covered with a lid and a slab. The receptor (small outlet to collect the waste) is the only visible, external piece. So, not only is the area free to walk over, the collection capacity is large too. In fact, one does not even realise the presence of the bin underneath.

These bins are fitted with sensors to detect the level of the wastage filled. These sensors can be monitored and signalled from a central controlling unit. The collection of garbage is done by a remote-controlled robotic crane which lifts the top slab. A hook on the crane lifts the lid of the bin. The supervisor has to only guide the fasteners to the top part and pull the entire bin up. This is guided to the collecting truck where it is tipped into and the bin is replaced. The total cost of such a truck and robotic system is estimated around Rs12 — Rs15 lakh.

Safe and hygienic
Being a hands-free operation, it is safe and hygienic. Since the bin is underground, bacteria do not get enough sunlight and warmth to decay the waste soon enough, keeping it odour free. In addition, it is also free from rodent and other pest infestations.

While the common types of containers are galvanised iron or reinforced plastic, one leading manufacturer Molok Ltd offers re-usable fibre liner collectors, to customise and suit the budget and aesthetics of the place. This comes with a simple drawstring type mechanism to easily empty the garbage into the truck.

Germany recycles nearly 60% of its waste. Every household takes utmost care to segregate its dry and wet waste. Despite such public discipline, Germany is adapting to the novel way and installing underground bins on a large scale to prevent spilling in public places.

Moreover, many other countries have adopted technology for underground waste treatment too, making it hygienic, cost effective and efficient. But behind all this, segregation and planning are of top priority and strict measures have to be adhered too. Before we make plans to see our city expanded and modernised on a magnificent scale, it may be pragmatic to take the collective responsibility to tackle the fundamental issue of garbage by utilising and investing in better technology.

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