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Plastic waste pile-up across Bengaluru triggers dengue spike fears

Last Updated : 25 June 2020, 01:22 IST

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Segregation into wet and dry waste has come down drastically during the lockdown.
Segregation into wet and dry waste has come down drastically during the lockdown.
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Piling up fast across the city, uncleared plastic waste has exposed a serious gap in post-lockdown garbage management: A near-total collapse of the dry waste disposal system and recycling units, leaving millions of rainwater-filled plastic containers as breeding spots for dengue-causing mosquitoes.

The health risk is real, and dengue has already shown the first signs of a spike. “The informal scrap market has stopped. Dry waste pickup has become very difficult as the end destinations are closed,” Sandya Natarajan from the Solid Waste Management Round Table (SWMRT) told DH.

Consumption of single-use plastic spiked during the Covid-19 lockdown and later for a big reason: A myth that it is much safer than reusable material. “Commercial setups have gone back to single-use plastic. ‘Safer than reusable’ is not an argument at all. In any case, they have to be trashed,” said Sandya.

As part of Covid relief, food was distributed in single-use plastic containers. But in many areas, the containers were dumped without any backend mechanism to dispose of them scientifically. The onset of monsoon has turned these blackspots into a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Since segregation into wet and dry waste came down drastically during the lockdown, the entire lot headed to the landfills. The shutdown of recycling units meant the waste was not graded and processed. The closure of cement kilns implied the end of another destination.

Post lockdown, the recycling units should be reopened on priority, demanded Nalini Shekhar from Hasiru Dala, a collective that has been working to turn waste collectors into entrepreneurs. “Recycling should be considered as an essential MSME, an integral part of solid waste management. Otherwise, the system will be in a real mess,” she contended.

When recycling units shut down, the Dry Waste Collection Centres (DWCCs) ran out of space to store the sorted recyclable solid waste. Waste collection from households was declared a part of essential services but not recycling or waste processing. Waste pickers engaged in recycling were out of work.

Hasiru Dala is now gearing up to get the recycling units in Nayandahalli back running.

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Published 24 June 2020, 19:34 IST

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