From anti-plastic steps to zero waste management

Starting with one apartment, over six apartments in LB Shastry Nagar have now taken up waste management. Trupti Godbole shares their experience.

At our Resident’s Welfare Association (RWA) in LB Sastry Nagar, we started working on anti-plastic cause right from Apr 2006. Our association Uthkarsh had conducted a door to door campaign convincing people about hazards of plastics.

Dry waste being sorted and stored in Sarovar Apartment. Pic: Anamika Gupta

While talking to people, we found out that most people take plastic bags to throw away garbage, since the dustbins get dirty because of wet waste.  It was, therefore, a natural progression to waste management.

We began to think about how to avoid plastic bags being used as garbage bin liners. If wet waste is stored separately in a container that can be washed clean, then people need not bring in or hoard plastic bags to be used as garbage bin liners.

That was the time, in Dec 2008, Uthkarsh Team met Suresh Kumar, a resident living nearby, who talked about composting organic waste (using aerobic composting method promoted by Daily Dump) and how apartments can do it. He had started the exercise of segregating waste and composting wet waste in his apartment complex, Royal Palms in our neighbourhood.

Residents from Sarovar Apartment nearby got interested and began segregating waste and composting wet waste in Jan 2009. We at Uthkarsh RWA took it up too, since many of us were interested in doing our bit for the environment.

Uthkarsh now has two teams, anti-plastic team and waste management team, through which we are trying to get more and more apartments to manage their waste at source and also to reduce plastic consumption – particularly plastic bags, since that is the easiest place to begin with.

Uthkarsh Waste Management Team inspecting composting in Ittina Abby along with Priti Kumar from Ittina Abby. Pic: Naresh

After Royal Palms apartment began composting in Dec 2008, Sarovar started in Feb 2009, Hometech Srishti and Saroj also followed in 2009. Pujitha Meadows began composting in 2010. Kalpataru Apartments too soon began segregation and started giving away their dry recyclable waste for recycling.

Uthkarsh waste management team talks to people in different apartments, conducts demos, answers their concerns about waste management and provides initial support and hand holding till they are well set in managing their waste. Waste management team also helps in buying supplies needed for composting through the RWA so that individual apartment champions don’t have to go to buy the saw dust, accelerator, neem powder etc. The apartment champions just have to pick the necessary supplies from us.

In all the apartments that manage their waste, the dry recyclable waste is either sold or donated to ITC or Samarthanam Trust, from where it is sent off to recycling factories. The Waste Management Team in Uthkarsh has six enthusiastic members and the other members of the RWA extend their support whenever there is an event, like on World Environment Day, or the “Green” Parade conducted on the Republic Day.

Recently Ittina Abby residential complex has also started waste management in their apartment where the waste from 150 houses is segregated and wet waste is composted. Also Hometech Suhanubhav apartments have begun wet waste management with 50 houses and are soon going to start giving away their dry waste to ITC as well.

So now six apartments are managing their waste at source. This is of course possible only with strong support from local champions in the apartments who take it upon them to look after the smooth functioning of the waste management process in their apartments. 

Many people from different parts of Bangalore come over the see these efforts in LB Shastri Nagar and get inspired to begin similar process in their apartments too.

Uthkarsh Waste Management Team inspecting composting in Ittina Abby along with Priti Kumar from Ittina Abby. Pic: Naresh

Some BBMP officials visited the place two months ago to see how residents in big apartments can manage their waste at source. They were impressed and also asked us if we could visit other layouts to convince them to manage their waste the same way. Students from Genie Kids Life school came over to see the project because they also wanted to begin waste management in their campus.

There has been a huge reduction in the amount of garbage being trucked away from these six apartments now. A lot of the waste items are send for recycling and we are able to generate top quality manure from the wet waste.

Lessons learnt

The Waste Management Team has learnt what work and what does not work when waste management is implemented in larger communities like apartments.

What does not work is any expensive solution for waste management. People are reluctant to spend time and money on waste.

What has worked so far is leading by example.  Successful attempts in managing waste in six apartments for more than a year now has helped the team convince other apartments to try the same.

Few things need to be kept in mind though: Resistance from people is something that hits you in the face in the beginning. Perseverance and leading by example – walking the talk, helps.

We need to work on an economically viable solution for managing large quantities of wet waste – the solutions available in the market at present are either meant for smaller quantities or are very expensive and labour intensive.

To facilitate effective waste management in layouts, BBMP should provide better garbage collection facility, and carry segregated waste without mixing them up. Local kabadiwallas can provide a more reliable service and accept all recyclable dry waste especially individual houses. Kabadiwalas generally only accept cardboard, paper and plastic bottle and milk packet waste.

Corporate offices can do their bit by sending recyclable stuff to the right place and also managing canteen waste effectively by composting on site if possible or sending it to the piggeries. So can schools!

Shops should be encouraged to stop giving away free plastic bags to customers (even though the new rules say bags should be charged for, customers often expect them free). Shops can also encourage customers to bring their own bags for shopping.  Uthkarsh has kept cloth bags and bags of non woven fabric in local shops as alternative to plastic carry bags.

Hopefully soon many more people will wake up to the need of the hour and manage their waste. After all, our waste is our responsibility.

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