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Issue 43
, 2013
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Waste no more

Toxics Link
Source: Live Mint, Date: , 2013

India is likely to see its waste generation triple to 376,639 tonnes per day by 2025. The solution to managing this could lie in segregating the waste.

In a majority of the cities in the country, solid waste goes straight to landfills without any segregation. Once the site is filled, the authorities are expected to find another, not always easy give

n the pressure of land. Photo: Hindustan Times

 New Delhi: Sheetal Pawar, a housewife who lives in the Katraj ward, or prabhag as it is known locally, of Pune, began segregating the waste generated by her household into dry (or inorganic) and wet (organic) waste two years ago. It was part of a pilot initiated jointly by four organizations in Pune to move towards zero waste developed on the philosophy of recycling garbage—a practice already in vogue in metropolises like New York and London.

According to Pawar it was not a difficult practice to weave into her daily routine; while the organic waste including vegetable peel, egg shells and leftover food is deposited in a green coloured bin, all the inorganic waste like paper, plastic and aluminium are placed in a white bin.

The waste collected from each home is no longer dumped in a landfill. Instead, they are diverted as raw material for biogas, composting and waste-to-energy plants, resulting in attendant savings besides reduction in the volume of household waste.

“We have been able to save Rs.60,000-70,000 on transportation costs per

month as all the waste does not got to the landfill. Also, we save Rs.6. 57 lakh on electricity costs for street lights per biogas plant,” says Suresh Jagtap, joint municipal commissioner, Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC).

Enthused by the initial success, the city authorities have since February begun to scale up the project. Jagtap claims the next phase will see the experiment extended to 20 more wards—covering little less than a fourth of the city of Pune with a population of 3.115 million.

The case for segregation

Analysts say segregation of waste could be the first step towards managing solid waste in the country, which is rapidly becoming a cause for concern. In a majority of the cities in the country, solid waste goes straight to landfills without any segregation. Once the site is filled, the authorities are expected to find another, not always easy given the pressure of land.

A 2012 World Bank report said that urban India generates 109,589 tonnes of waste per day; as compared to urban United States which generates 624,700 tonnes per day, the highest in the world and the second largest is urban China at 520,548 tonnes per day. India’s waste generation

will more than triple to 376,639 tonnes per day by 2025, especially with the population of urban India expected to rise to 538 million.

“As countries, particularly India and China, continue their rapid pace of urbanization and development, global solid waste quantities are projected to increase considerably,” the report added.

Naim Keruwala, project consultant at Janwani, a not-for-profit, one of the organization involved in the implementation of the Katraj initiative, said the pilot was started as there was an outcry in the villages adjoining the landfills.

“There were protests by local villagers who didn’t want a landfill which brings the waste from the city to their area,” he said.

Pune is not the only city where people living near a landfill site have protested, said Ravi Agarwal, founder and director of Toxics Link, a not-for-profit group that works on waste issues.

“There have been attempts by small groups in cities like Chennai, Bangalore and Delhi to segregate waste and to convert biodegradable waste into compost and to recycle the non-biodegradable,” he said.

Agarwal said none of them have been able to scale this model beyond a few wards or localities as it is in direct conflict with the privatization of waste, which is what t

he governments are promoting.

“Municipalities want to control plastic and waste and there is no support for these projects. They do not fail because of design but because the government doesn’t support them. Despite several attempts, these projects have failed as the municipal corporation has to support it for it to work,” he said.

The business case

The key to managing municipal solid waste is segregation says Jagtap.

Keruwala said that zero garbage doesn’t mean that garbage is not created; all it means is that it is utilized in the same area. According to him, the key to its success is the fact that it is beneficial for all the stakeholders including wastepickers, the municipality and the hous


“A wastepicker is roughly able to earn Rs.4,000-5,000 a month as each household pays Rs.30 to a wastepicker per month to collect segregated waste from their houses,” he said. This includes the money they earn from selling the the inorganic waste like plastic, paper and aluminium to recycling units, Keruwala adds.

According to Agarwal, the pilot in Pune was a success because the municipal corporation backed the plan. “All that this kind of a project requires is institutional support,” he adds.