Waste-pickers best ally in war against waste – ( yet there ignored not even given some basic assistance )

Posted on Mar 12 2018 - 6:45pm by admin

In its leader on plastic pollution, The Economist last week suggested that using less of the polymer was at best a partial solution. A better answer was to collect more and recycle.

RAJ K RAJ/ HT FILEn Waste­pickers recycle almost 15­20% of Delhi’s garbage, saving the municipalities at least ₹1 crore a day.The publication noted that the rich western world prohibiting and penalising use of plastic disposables – even the British Queen has banned plastic straws from her castles – may be better for the conscience than the environment because rubbish collection anyway worked smoothly in those countries.

The problem really is in the developing world. All but two of the 10 biggest plastic polluters of the world are in Asia. Of these, only China can afford western-style waste-management in the near future.

India, despite its 1.3 billion population, was not on the list of top ten plastic polluters, thanks to armies of waste pickers. This model of waste management, The Economist felt, was the best way forward for countries that were too poor to employ sophisticated collection and recycling methods.

Surprisingly though, our civic administrations have had little to do with this innovation, which reduces the pressure on garbage dumps that are fast running out of space. For years, the faceless, socially marginalised waste-pickers have been doing informally what is essentially the job of the citizenry and municipal staff.

Every morning, koodewallas dump our garbage bags — stuffed with anything from kitchen rubbish to plastic, metallic packing, glass, batteries, CFL bulbs and even sanitary waste — in the local community bin after segregating whatever they can sell to kabadiwallas.

There is a second round of sifting, again by waste-pickers, at community dumpsters. From here, truckloads of garbage are transported to Delhi’s landfills where a third army of waste-pickers collect what their counterparts in the streets may have missed earlier.

According to Chintan, an environment research nonprofit, waste-pickers recycle almost 15-20% of Delhi’s garbage, saving the municipalities at least ₹1 crore a day. But all they earn is a couple of thousand rupees each a month. There is no compensation for braving the stench, the feral dogs, and a battery of deadly germs without even the basic protection, prompting the National Human Rights Commission to label their living conditions as a violation of human rights.

Although much belatedly, the government is now attempting to make amends. Cleared by the Centre in April 2016, and to be adopted by all states, the Management of Solid Waste (MSW) Rules have specific clauses on the integration of waste-pickers into the formal system of garbage collection.

These rules ask generators to segregate garbage at source and hand over their daily discards in separate stacks to the waste-pickers. The local bodies have to register waste-pickers and waste-dealers, give them identity cards, and provide better working conditions by setting aside space for material recovery and storage facilities. They must also be paid reasonable honorarium generated from a stipulated user charge collected from households and commercial establishments for the service.

Segregation is the key to garbage management. Almost half of Delhi’s solid waste consists of compostable matter but proper sorting of the wet waste is a must for generating quality compost. Waste-to-energy plants can save a lot of energy that they otherwise waste in treating the mixed, moist, noncombustible trash they receive. Training waste-pickers in segregating dry from wet trash, say officials, can increase material recovery for recycling by as much as 30%.

In an ideal situation, if these rules are enforced and the work-chain is maintained, the cleaned up wet waste would go to local compost plants, the recyclables to recycling units, and material such as multi-layered packaging, low-quality plastic bags or any polymer that cannot be recycled infinitely, to the waste-to-energy plant. That should leave little to be dumped into the stinky, hazardous and overflowing landfills, one of which killed two people during a garbage avalanche last year.

All this, stipulated the MSW Rules, was to be done within “a period not later than one year from the date of notification of these rules.” It took almost two years and a rap from the Delhi high court for the authorities in Delhi to notify the bylaws, a roadmap for implementation, this January. The still bigger challenge, as always, is enforcing the rules.

Time is not on our side.

2 Comment(s)

Kuppuswamy Kumar
12 March 2018
08:54
..very useful analysis and tips for all local bodies to grapple the solid waste menace…!Report abuse
Ashish Rai
12 March 2018
13:25
Ashish Rai: Yes, these waste pickers are the best ally in the war against waste. Especially in a capital saving country, that can ill afford the huge investments, with our populace showing a voracious appetite for plastic. As a child, I would love to experience the various hues and colours of the Delhi seasons, that had a fair degree of predictability in pattern. The summer months had their own attraction in terms of the eatables, roadside delicacies, and associated with the hum of coolers that enhanced the natural surroundings and flattered the ambience, with the fragrance of khus, the heavenly allure of melons, mangoes and other fruits in their natural colours. The roadside trees bore jamuns, phaalse, free from the artificial carbides used to quickly ripen them for the market, and the birds of all varieties would frequent our house courtyard. Similarly, the monsoons soon after would quench the scorched earth, and we would take our cues from the weather to order samosas, gulped down with tea in earthen cups. Soon followed the winter, with her characteristic charm of oranges, apples, and ubiquitous cups of hot beverages. Part of my life, a good 12 years, were spent in Kolkata, and we generated load of trash, which would inevitably turn to night soil and manure, although in quantities far more than the useful pathogens could successfully overcome. However, these images are slowly fading in distant memory, with hope sealed and suffocated in a plastic bag, it seems! Winters are getting to be more extreme, the summers becoming increasingly hotter, with more concretised surrounds, and the natural habitats of various birds being paved over, while their numbers are dwindling. Of the 8 crore vultures three decades back, only 1200 are surviving in India, no longer able to give the yeoman’s services to cleaning up dead and diseased carcasses of beasts lying in the open! The earthen pots at roadside tea stalls have been replaced by characterless plastic cups that carcinogenic and harmful for humans, as is the airconditioned environment that have replaced coolers, (even public transport buses have become airconditioned, disallowing the healthy air from outside to enter the crowded confines of the bus) and with them closed doors on open spaces. that have become increasingly polluted with diesel fumes from private vehicles that seems to be heady in the success of staying ahead in the rat race! This note has given useful insights and perspective on tackling the waste menace. Hopefully, with awareness created, technology and renewable energy would play a greater role in this mix of solutions to tackle waste.

In its leader on plastic pollution, The Economist last week suggested that using less of the polymer was at best a partial solution. A better answer was to collect more and recycle.

RAJ K RAJ/ HT FILEn Waste­pickers recycle almost 15­20% of Delhi’s garbage, saving the municipalities at least ₹1 crore a day.The publication noted that the rich western world prohibiting and penalising use of plastic disposables – even the British Queen has banned plastic straws from her castles – may be better for the conscience than the environment because rubbish collection anyway worked smoothly in those countries.

The problem really is in the developing world. All but two of the 10 biggest plastic polluters of the world are in Asia. Of these, only China can afford western-style waste-management in the near future.

India, despite its 1.3 billion population, was not on the list of top ten plastic polluters, thanks to armies of waste pickers. This model of waste management, The Economist felt, was the best way forward for countries that were too poor to employ sophisticated collection and recycling methods.

Surprisingly though, our civic administrations have had little to do with this innovation, which reduces the pressure on garbage dumps that are fast running out of space. For years, the faceless, socially marginalised waste-pickers have been doing informally what is essentially the job of the citizenry and municipal staff.

Every morning, koodewallas dump our garbage bags — stuffed with anything from kitchen rubbish to plastic, metallic packing, glass, batteries, CFL bulbs and even sanitary waste — in the local community bin after segregating whatever they can sell to kabadiwallas.

There is a second round of sifting, again by waste-pickers, at community dumpsters. From here, truckloads of garbage are transported to Delhi’s landfills where a third army of waste-pickers collect what their counterparts in the streets may have missed earlier.

According to Chintan, an environment research nonprofit, waste-pickers recycle almost 15-20% of Delhi’s garbage, saving the municipalities at least ₹1 crore a day. But all they earn is a couple of thousand rupees each a month. There is no compensation for braving the stench, the feral dogs, and a battery of deadly germs without even the basic protection, prompting the National Human Rights Commission to label their living conditions as a violation of human rights.

Although much belatedly, the government is now attempting to make amends. Cleared by the Centre in April 2016, and to be adopted by all states, the Management of Solid Waste (MSW) Rules have specific clauses on the integration of waste-pickers into the formal system of garbage collection.

These rules ask generators to segregate garbage at source and hand over their daily discards in separate stacks to the waste-pickers. The local bodies have to register waste-pickers and waste-dealers, give them identity cards, and provide better working conditions by setting aside space for material recovery and storage facilities. They must also be paid reasonable honorarium generated from a stipulated user charge collected from households and commercial establishments for the service.

Segregation is the key to garbage management. Almost half of Delhi’s solid waste consists of compostable matter but proper sorting of the wet waste is a must for generating quality compost. Waste-to-energy plants can save a lot of energy that they otherwise waste in treating the mixed, moist, noncombustible trash they receive. Training waste-pickers in segregating dry from wet trash, say officials, can increase material recovery for recycling by as much as 30%.

In an ideal situation, if these rules are enforced and the work-chain is maintained, the cleaned up wet waste would go to local compost plants, the recyclables to recycling units, and material such as multi-layered packaging, low-quality plastic bags or any polymer that cannot be recycled infinitely, to the waste-to-energy plant. That should leave little to be dumped into the stinky, hazardous and overflowing landfills, one of which killed two people during a garbage avalanche last year.

All this, stipulated the MSW Rules, was to be done within “a period not later than one year from the date of notification of these rules.” It took almost two years and a rap from the Delhi high court for the authorities in Delhi to notify the bylaws, a roadmap for implementation, this January. The still bigger challenge, as always, is enforcing the rules.

Time is not on our side.

2 Comment(s)

Kuppuswamy Kumar
12 March 2018
08:54
..very useful analysis and tips for all local bodies to grapple the solid waste menace…!Report abuse
Ashish Rai
12 March 2018
13:25
Ashish Rai: Yes, these waste pickers are the best ally in the war against waste. Especially in a capital saving country, that can ill afford the huge investments, with our populace showing a voracious appetite for plastic. As a child, I would love to experience the various hues and colours of the Delhi seasons, that had a fair degree of predictability in pattern. The summer months had their own attraction in terms of the eatables, roadside delicacies, and associated with the hum of coolers that enhanced the natural surroundings and flattered the ambience, with the fragrance of khus, the heavenly allure of melons, mangoes and other fruits in their natural colours. The roadside trees bore jamuns, phaalse, free from the artificial carbides used to quickly ripen them for the market, and the birds of all varieties would frequent our house courtyard. Similarly, the monsoons soon after would quench the scorched earth, and we would take our cues from the weather to order samosas, gulped down with tea in earthen cups. Soon followed the winter, with her characteristic charm of oranges, apples, and ubiquitous cups of hot beverages. Part of my life, a good 12 years, were spent in Kolkata, and we generated load of trash, which would inevitably turn to night soil and manure, although in quantities far more than the useful pathogens could successfully overcome. However, these images are slowly fading in distant memory, with hope sealed and suffocated in a plastic bag, it seems! Winters are getting to be more extreme, the summers becoming increasingly hotter, with more concretised surrounds, and the natural habitats of various birds being paved over, while their numbers are dwindling. Of the 8 crore vultures three decades back, only 1200 are surviving in India, no longer able to give the yeoman’s services to cleaning up dead and diseased carcasses of beasts lying in the open! The earthen pots at roadside tea stalls have been replaced by characterless plastic cups that carcinogenic and harmful for humans, as is the airconditioned environment that have replaced coolers, (even public transport buses have become airconditioned, disallowing the healthy air from outside to enter the crowded confines of the bus) and with them closed doors on open spaces. that have become increasingly polluted with diesel fumes from private vehicles that seems to be heady in the success of staying ahead in the rat race! This note has given useful insights and perspective on tackling the waste menace. Hopefully, with awareness created, technology and renewable energy would play a greater role in this mix of solutions to tackle waste.
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