The idea of waste segregation is yet to catch the imagination of people in Delhi, but it’s surely not because of absence of spending. Blame it on a lack of awareness or failure by officials to implement rules, lakhs of twin colour-coded waste bins are lying unused. Others have either been vandalised or stolen.
One such instance came to light recently when a set of blue-green bins was vandalised in south Delhi’s Africa Avenue. Another set had suffered the same fate just a few metres away.
Data provided by the three corporations revealed that lakhs of bins of varying sizes have been distributed and installed across the city. North corporation has spent nearly Rs 9 crore on installing 12,000 units (6,000 sets) of 100-litre capacity twin bins. More than 4 lakh smaller, 12-litre bins have been handed over to shopkeepers and households. Similarly, east corporation has distributed 43,000 smaller bins and is procuring 1 lakh more such units. As many as 4,950 bins of 100-litre capacity have been installed in east Delhi with a total spend of Rs 1.6 crore. South corporation, too, has spent Rs 7.7 crore to install 13,836 bins of 100-litre capacity.
Asserting that community participation is necessary, experts say that merely installing infrastructure and issuing diktats on their usage won’t lead to positive change. While colour-coding is expected to improve collection of segregated waste, the results haven’t been encouraging — at least not so far.
While the green bins are meant for wet waste, which is mostly organic in nature and can be composted, the blue-coloured boxes are for dry waste that can be recycled. Wet waste includes kitchen residue, such as vegetables, fruit peels, egg shells, tea bags, leftovers, chicken and fish bones, as also garden waste like fallen leaves, twigs, weeds and trimmings.
Dry recyclable components include plastic bottles, cups, newspapers, pizza boxes, and so on. On average, 60-70% of garbage generated by a household is in form of kitchen and horticulture waste. The rest comes from dry plastic, wrappings and boxes while another 2-3% is hazardous waste, such as sanitary napkins and diapers. “If a large section of population carries out segregation, only a small portion of waste will have to be sent to landfills. That’s the only way forward with no space left for more landfills,” a civic official said.
Corporation officials admitted that almost none of the blue-green bins were sending segregated waste.
An official with the sanitation department of north corporation said: “The infrastructure is in place, but awareness is low. Habits take time to change. Even though municipal solid waste rules mandate a fine of Rs 200 for not segregating, challans are hardly issued as there is a lack of political will. Anyway, how many challans can we issue if no one segregates waste?”
The civic bodies themselves have failed to create awareness among Delhiites. “In Delhi, garbage collection is done by private concessionaires in nine out of 12 zones, but we often get complaints that the collectors are not trained. The agreement with concessionaires provides for fines and we will start cracking the whip,” an SDMC official said.
Chitra Mukherjee, an expert in sold waste management and head of operations at Chintan, an NGO, said the corporations must first focus on spreading awareness among residents and this required involving all stakeholders. “The three corporations should start a system of rewarding people through incentives for segregation, composting and decentralised waste management. Only then can we execute segregation at source. Wastepickers should be trained to pick up only segregated waste and dedicated waste streams need to be set up. Merely distributing separate waste bins isn’t going to work.”