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Solid waste recycling not an impossible task. Let’s do it!

Emission from burning of Municipal Solid WasteImagine walking through any road or a suburb of a city not splintered with solid waste, plastic and other domestic rejects coming under your heels. It is a challenging task to make Swachh Bharat take shape without the overall awareness of each one of you. Seeing all muck around you, the opportunities to launch Swachh Bharat a success lies responsibility of each and every citizen. In most of the houses taking notice of the organic waste generated each day invoke recycling. Converting into compost has to be a family chore en-cashing the opportunity to “go green” jump out at you. You walk by the neighboring area and envision an organics recycling program coming to life adopting simple devices. You stop by nearby market and learn about “municipal solid waste” being removed to the waste yards through pedal rickshaws and wonder why it can’t be replaced by battery carts which arranges for unwanted it. You visit the common waste yards and wonder why solar powered trash compactors using energy from the sun couldn’t be used. A solar powered regular sized outdoor garbage can compacts its own trash so that it can hold 8 times its capacity to contribute to a more sustainable environment.

Unlike most of countries, the solid waste in our cities is comprised of 70-80% organic matter, dirt and dust. Thanks to hawkers and kabadiwallas who make door-to-door call, pick up old newspapers, plastic, metallic scrap and other items promoting recycling. Newspapers are turned into paper mass, broken glass and bottles are reused or melted into new item, plastic containers become plastic raw materials for producing new items. Special kiosk also accept rubber used tyres, electronics and other hazardous waste such as used TVs / batteries, to recycling units for better utilization. Used clothing is generously given to the needy through few NGOs doing wonderful work in this direction.

Like every household keep separating their newspapers, plastic, metal/glass and other electric appliances in exchange of little incentive, there is a need to bring awareness to segregate kitchen waste that can be helpful in turning green surroundings by reusing, recycling organic solid waste into compost. A word is need to be spread to voluntarily work out this little task out of other household chores in each home. A new opportunity has arisen for development of environmental friendly bio-degradable trash bags to replace polythene. Residents to keep separate bins for segregating organic (vegetable/fruit peelings) and other inorganic waste (plastic, metal, empty bottles etc.) in different bins.  Producing “eco-friendly” trash bags from recycled paper and bio- degradable made from organic matter and compostable polymer is one of good option today. This way generation of garbage can be reduced by more than half. The rest non bio-degradable waste after segregation (Toxic / Non Toxic) can further be processed/ recycled.

Here are few small scale innovations that need to be encouraged, developed and given wide publicity over garbage reduction and vast options in recycling.

Source Segregation in each household:

Legalise mandatory recycling and composting.

Introduce recycling and scheduled clean up. Make RED bin for all household rubbish e.g.; kitchen leftovers, plastic, card board, tin containers that can be recycled. Use GREEN bin for recycling kitchen organic waste and start forming compost for your garden. You can cut down garbage by more than half. Simple kits can be developed. It is worth considering. Many citizens are following this great idea. Why not you!!

Turn your kitchen waste into biogas for cooking:

Develop energy efficient cook-stoves to suit household applications.

Provide durable, high performing cook-stoves in the market utilizing locally available materials to provide an alternate use to firewood/charcoal/kerosene. Poor can save 50% per month in fuel cost utilizing kitchen bio-degradable waste. Entrepreneurs undertaking manufacture to be encouraged.

A small bio gas plant gives a continuous flame for two hours. Pre-fabricated mini biogas plants have great potential in the emerging markets.

Biogas Plants for urban and industrial wastes can be great source of “Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency” Many Municipal Corporations are now considering installation of biogas for electricity and manure generation.

Hazardous/ toxic waste – Recycling:

Reuse, recycle and reclaim are ways of managing hazardous waste.

Vast scope exist to encash Swachh bharat Abhiyan and Make in India seeking huge participation by the private ventures in developing globally competitive technologies: Certain household products like fluorescent bulbs, plastics, TVs and other electronic items are collected by kabadiwalas, who don’t have any idea about how to dispose of the e-waste in a safe manner. Items not fetching good price are therefore found strewn everywhere posing a risk to public.

Metals such as lead, hard plastics, chromium, mercury, beryllium and cadmium used in various kinds of electronic gadgets, if dumped unused, can cause diseases such as renal failure, bronchitis, nervous, digestive and immune system including lungs failure and joint pain.

Care to be exercised in proper handling, treatment and disposal by providing suitable guidance to the kabadiwalas for carrying sorted materials to different Recycling Centres. Incentives need to be devised to empower and motivate the producers and consumers of goods that generate hazardous wastes to device innovative solutions in recycling. In addition, Rag pickers are normally seen poking through rubbish piles acting as an informal recycling organisation piles in every Indian city. Working long days and carrying large sacks, they pluck plastic, paper, and metal from alley litter piles, overflowing curb side bins, regional collection hubs, and dumps.

Recycling and disposal of e-waste warrant attention of authorities.

Provide litter and recycling bins

Municipal Corporations should feel proud to provide recycling bins and ensure that they are emptied timely. Increase frequency of roads, footpaths and gutters cleaning. Encourage residents to keep parks green and clean. Impose heavy fines on those who indulge in illegal dumping. Make cities free from nuisance of pig/cattle/monkey in residential areas. Each Municipal Corporation to ensure web accessibility showing contact details for various services and guidelines to keep their city clean, beautiful and safe.

Challenges that keep dragging:

  1. Waste burning ban continue to be violated causing serious implications on health.
  2. Green waste including dry leaves gets mixed with non-organic waste and taken for landfills.
  3. Menace of e-waste growth remains undeterred resulting unscientific landfills within city limits including dumping MSW in pits on vacant plots causing serious damage to environment and health.
  4. Waste-to-energy through possible use as renewable resource have remained controversial topics globally. The focus is towards more recycling and composting instead of incinerating.

Possible solution to the problem (My personal views).

  • Streamline the waste management system by all Municipal Corporations in a uniform manner by setting up green waste processing units adopting collection of organic and inorganic waste separately.
  • In order to keep our cities clean there should be a huge awareness to the public via various mass media and newspapers. Ideal would be if the government take a major role in spreading awareness programmes – broadcasting on TV as well through documentary films on “Don’t Waste- segregate organic waste for composting”, “Citizen driven waste management initiatives” “Role of Welfare Housing Societies” to educate people. Each home/ resident should be encouraged to cultivate a habit of turning green waste into a small pit utilizing simple kit for generating compost for the garden.
  • Educate, train and recognize useful work carried out by Kabadiwalas. Develop effective ways to collect recyclable/ reusable items to the collection centres  in order to bring down the load on MSW. The biggest advantage that the country enjoys is the segregation of paper, glass, plastic, batteries and e-waste at source by kabadiwalas.
  • With new era in bilateral cooperation, this is the time for the Urban Development Ministry to enter into manufacturing licence for undertaking production of robust “Single Stream segregation Plant”. Proven designs of superior sorting equipment and systems are available to automatically separate commingled recyclables into the most marketable end-products. Manufacturing capabilities exist in the country to provide complex fully-automated systems, indigenously. Waste technology as being practised in the world can be seen on the following sites for better appreciation:

Smarter cities now being earmarked would be capitalizing on new technologies and insights to transform their systems, operations and service delivery. While reviewing the entire set up, most essential feature would need constant attention in providing a high quality of life and healthy climate in various residential colonies, markets, and other associated facilities. Forward-looking leader/ entrepreneurs recognize need to start pooling their knowledge in setting up infrastructure introducing new and innovative technologies turning challenges into opportunities.

Perhaps Administrative Staff Colleges may need to introduce new chapters for the young entrant’s sufficient guidelines in using big data and analytics for deeper insights. Cloud technology for collaboration among disparate agencies. Mobile to gather data and address problems directly at the source. Social technologies for better engagement with citizens. Smart city concept would be introducing entire gamut on social responsibilities, potential and outlook on smart cities to deliver results that were never imagined as before.

Let’s join our hands together and pledge to maintain clean and green India.

Author’s Bio:

Mahendra SarupMahendra Sarup is retired officer from Department of Defense Production, Ministry of Defense, India. He keeps himself engaged in current affairs needing attention of policy makers. His writing focused primarily on environmental issues. This is his first blog post at

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