How are commercial bulk waste generators managing waste in Chennai?

Commercial bulk waste generators (BWGs) and vendors have been found to flout SWM rules and dump waste in street side bins in Chennai.

Of the total Bulk Waste Generators (BWGs), both residential and commercial buildings, across Chennai, only 43.86% follow the Solid Waste Management bye-laws and dispose of their waste through empanelled vendors.

Commercial establishments, in this case, refers to include large restaurants, educational institutions, government buildings, offices and IT parks, shops and malls and cinemas, stadiums and wedding halls. 

The bulk waste generators have been mandated to engage vendors to process waste on-site and dispose of the wet and dry waste. The waste collection from BWGs does not involve the civic body and the waste generated by them is not to be sent to the landfills. 

Explaining how an in-house management system by vendors would work, Mohammed Dawood, the founder of Earth Recycler Private Limited, an empanelled vendor with the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC), says, “We want to decentralise waste management. We take care of the entire operations of on-site processing. It becomes easy for commercial clients to get their waste to get processed on-site. We build, operate, and maintain waste management yards on their premises and for dry waste, we do the secondary segregation of waste and send it to respective recyclers. Up to 90 per cent of the waste generated is sent for recycling and around 10 per cent is sent to cement factories or as rejects.”

According to officials of the SWM department of GCC, there are 1411 Bulk Waste Generators, both residential and commercial buildings, across the city from Zone 1 to 15. The quantity of waste generated by BWGs amounts to 2,67,932 kgs per day. Around 58,675 kilograms of garbage is processed in-house by 263 BWGs.

The data shared by GCC shows that only 619 BWG are disposing of their waste of approximately 1,36,614 kilograms through service providers or vendors.

Despite a system in place, many gaps in collection and disposal have resulted in much of the waste generated by commercial bulk waste generators becoming a burden on the waste management system in the city.

Read more: What do we do with Chennai’s legacy waste?

Violation of SWM rules by commercial BWGs

Residents across Chennai have spotted violations in waste disposal by commercial bulk waste generators.

“When I was returning from an evening show which was aired in a theatre in Zone 10, I saw some workers from the theatre taking bags of waste and dumping them in the roadside bins,” says Lalitha Srinivasan, a resident of KK Nagar. 

She also saw some personnel from a mall dump waste in roadside bins. 

Geo Damin, a researcher of SWM with Poovulagin Nanbargal, confirms this trend of commercial establishments, especially restaurants, discreetly dumping their waste in the roadside bins. 

Meera Ravikumar, a member of Swachh Gandhi Nagar in Adyar, says, “I have complained many times about restaurants and commercial establishments dumping their wet waste and mixed waste in roadside bins.”

“Every time, I complain, there will be a few days of monitoring by GCC and the conservancy team. But once the monitoring stops the violators are back to dumping waste in the bins in the Adyar area. We want strict enforcement of the SWM rules and not just sporadic action as an eye wash.”

segregated food waste from commercial bwgs
Waste being segregated in the processing facility at Ramanujam IT Park. Pic: Earth Recyclers Pvt Ltd

Raghukumar C, a civic activist from Perambur says, “Many restaurants in our area are handing over their waste dumped in big black bags which are being collected by GCC vehicles during the morning hours. We request GCC to enforce stricter rules and to fine these violators and make them follow proper SWM practices.” 

It is apparent that despite complaints from residents, commercial bulk waste generators collude with staff from the civic body to find ways to dispose of the waste without engaging vendors.

Gaps in collection of waste generated by BWGs

An issue in the collection of bulk waste has been the violations by the vendors engaged by the BWGs.

An official of the conservancy team said that many vendors engaged by BWGs dump the waste collected in the common street bins at night. These violators have been identified by the conservancy team of the civic body and fined for the violations. 

“We have caught a few vendors dumping rejects and other mixed waste in our bins at night. They are being fined for their illegal activities. Still, they continue to do so. We request GCC be strict with such vendors and take stern action so that it does not happen again. We have caught a few restaurants that are empanelled with vendors dumping their garbage in GCC bins, as the vendor does not pick up garbage some days which also amounts to illegal dumping,” says the official.  

Another official says that in many zones the BWGs list was not properly populated. Zones initially had a high number of BWGs but later dwindled to a few hundred without explanation.

“We will instruct the SWM department of every zone and take corrective action to check the current disparity in the number of BWGs. BWGs and their vendors should not dump their waste in the dump yard or roadside bins or hand them over to the conservancy team. If any BWG or vendors are caught, GCC will take strict action against them and BWGs will be fined heavily and vendors will be blacklisted from the empanelled list,” says Chief Engineer N Mahesan of the Solid Waste Management Department of the Greater Chennai Corporation.

Read more: Swachh Survekshan ranking signals broad issues in waste management in Chennai

Stakeholder meeting to refine BWG waste collection

In an effort to understand the issues with waste management for bulk waste generators, a meeting was held with the stakeholders and civic body officials. 

Many commercial establishments who attended the meeting conducted by the GCC claimed that while they were following all the mandates of the Solid Waste Management Rules, they are being fined by the local conservancy officials even if the empanelled vendors fail to pick up the waste.

The BWGs were provided assurance that as per the list maintained by the civic body, every vendor will be checked periodically. He instructed all the conservancy supervisors and inspectors to monitor the infrastructure and the process followed by the vendors. 

“There will be end-to-end infrastructure quality assessment and quantity of waste generated by BWGs and vendors will be monitored and if they flout the rules, they will be fined and blacklisted,” says Mahesan.

A vendor who was handling waste from a popular sports stadium raised the issue of being prevented from collecting waste by the local conservancy team. Uniformity in enforcement of rules is another requirement that was raised by the stakeholders.

As for the BWGs who are in violation of the rules, Mahesan says, “BWGs are supposed to do on-site composting or process their waste with the vendor but many of them are not doing it as per rules. GCC shall deal with BWG violators and monitor them regularly and fine or levy penalties.” 

“To enforce penalties on BWGs violating rules, the government’s will is important,” remarks Geo. “The government and the public have equal responsibility towards efficient waste management.”

“BWG violators of all categories mentioned as per SWM rules will be fined heavily and severe action will be taken if they dump in roadside bins.,” says R Priya, Mayor of Greater Chennai Corporation.

Streamlining of waste management over the past few years in Chennai has run into myriad issues. The disposal of waste at bulk waste generators is another piece in the puzzle to be solved by GCC. By regular meetings with stakeholders and close monitoring of the collection and disposal process, compliance can be ensured by the civic body.

If you find any BWG violating solid waste management rules, you can call 1913 or file a grievance on the Namma Chennai App.

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  1. Meera Ravikumar says:

    Strict implementation of solid waste management rules is the only solution. But We need strong political will for good things to happen.

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