Will Bengaluru get litter bins?

Garbage bins vanished from city roads in 2000. But the Zero Garbage policy never really took off. BBMP now has new plans to make this work, even as citizens’ groups are successfully cleaning up up parts of the city.

Litter bins, which almost disappeared from Bangalore’s landscape some time back, may make a comeback this year. BBMP’s Solid Waste Management (SWM) department has plans to re-introduce litter bins as part of its new policy.

Solid waste tenders, compost/dry waste centres, decentralised biogas centres are all part of the new policy. In draft stage now, the policy has to be approved first by the Standing Committee for Health and then by the BBMP Council. "The policy will probably go for Council’s approval next month. Currently we have no integrated policy; the new policy will be a guideline for all officials," says an Environment Engineer at the SWM department in BBMP Head Office, on condition of anonymity. The official was authorised to speak to Citizen Matters by B V Satish, Chief Engineer (CE) at SWM department.

Litter bins are placed by shopkeepers on footpaths. Pic: Navya P K

The official says that the small bins will be placed in areas with high floating population like M G Road, Commercial Street and Brigade Road. "Most wards have some busy commercial area, so all of them will be covered. Bins will not be placed in residential and market areas as the main garbage collection system is already taking care of waste there," she says.

Individual ward offices have already collected data on waste generation and finalised the number of bins. The bins will be small, with capacity of 90-120 litres. But other details like their type, material etc will be finalised after Council’s approval.

"There will be no problem on funds as the department has allocation under the state government’s 13th Finance Commission Grants," says the official.

Where did the bins go?

Bangalore adopted bin-free policy in the early 2000s, during its Swaccha Bangalore initiative. The initiative was with the help of BATF (Bangalore Agenda Task Force) formed by the state government in 1999.

With Swaccha Bangalore’s zero garbage policy, the large common cement bins were removed and door-to-door collection was introduced. But small litter bins were introduced in commercial areas to collect street litter, says Kalpana Kar, former BATF member.

"These bins were placed after researching on their type, design, positioning etc. But the number of bins was not increased even as the city grew. There was no initiative from BBMP. What we need is policy decision on bins, good infrastructure and strict penalty for littering," says Kalpana.

BBMP clueless on bins’ status

BBMP’s existing policy on bins is not clear. B V Satish says that the city is supposed to be free of all kind of bins and that they do not exist now. "Public should be responsible enough to carry litter and dispose it later. Many shop keepers and street vendors do keep small bins to collect litter," he says.

However SWM department says there are bins, but has no data on existing bins. "In some commercial areas there may be 1-2 bins in a street. They are in bad shape. The zonal offices will have data," says the Environment Engineer at the BBMP Head Office.

She says that some new bins were installed in Gandhinagar ward last year. But officials in Gandhinagar are not sure of this. R Idayavendan, BBMP Executive Engineer at Gandhinagar, says that no bins exist in the ward now, but Superintendant Engineer (West) Parameshwarappa says that the bins do exist, but is not sure of the total number.

The officials say there are plans to place bins around Majestic railway station, as part of BBMP’s Rs 3 project for beautification of Majestic area (which comes under Gandhinagar ward). But details of this has not been finalised either.

BBMP says that the litter cop initiative which has been on hold since 2007 is also likely to be introduced soon, for enforcement. "Litter cops will be employed on trial basis in all zones. Like traffic cops they will used hand held machines to fine offenders on the spot," says Satish.

Citizens take action

While BBMP is making plans, some citizen groups are already active in this space. The Ugly Indian (TUI), a small group of citizens, has been anonymously placing and distributing litter bins in the city over the last 3-4 months.

A citizen group called ‘The Ugly Indian’ placed these litter bins named ‘tereBins’ in Koramangala 3rd block playground this month. Pic: Navya P K

The group has designed small bins with an attractive exterior design, which they call ‘tereBin’. The bins are designed so that the large garbage packets cannot be deposited in them. Anyone who wants to sponsor a bin can do so by contacting the group over e-mail at theuglyindian@gmail.com

A citizen can suggest the group to place bins in a particular area. If TUI identifies the area as requiring bins, the citizen can sponsor it at the cost of Rs 1500. At this cost, the group will install the bins and maintain them for a year.

TUI has so far distributed around 130 bins, mainly in CBD areas like MG road, Brigade road and Church Street. They also plan to place bins in other areas in the city in the coming months.

TUI says that the bins are far more effective than the standard Sintex bins that cost Rs 2,500 and above. "Most bins on streets are poorly designed – they get vandalised, are not weather-proof or cannot handle all kinds of waste. Even the rabbit dustbins outside Vidhana Soudha are dysfunctional."

TereBins have been mostly successful, with litter considerably reducing in areas where they were placed; bins are cleared daily. Though the bins were damaged in a few instances, the group has replaced them. TUI says that their initiative is successful because they create easy-to-use systems and have no commercial motive; it also reduces the workload of pourakarmikas.

The group also does ‘Spotfix’, wherein it cleans up dirty streets. One such area is the footpath near Bishop Cotton Girls School in Residency road, which used to be dysfunctional as the wall adjoining the footpath was used for urination by the public. In June TUI painted the wall, installed urinals named ‘Wonderloo’ in this spot, and even developed a mini-garden on a part of the footpath.

BBMP, on its part, is supportive of such initiatives. "Though we have own personnel to clear garbage, citizen initiatives are needed. We will support them," says Satish.

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