Bangalore: Anew waste-management regime came into force in Bangalore on Monday, making it mandatory for residents and commercial establishments to segregate rubbish before it is collected by municipal workers.
This is one of the widest garbage segregation initiatives being implemented in the country.
Under newly notified rules, the city corporation will collect organic wet waste such as food daily and dry recyclable garbage once a week. The new rules were put forward after protests by villagers in July and August near two landfills in Bangalore led to garbage remaining uncollected on the streets.
The state government reacted by appointing a new commissioner to head the city’s corporation, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), who charted a plan to minimise landfilling.
“The only solution to waste management is segregation,” said Rajneesh Goel, the new commissioner.
Under his plan, wet waste will be composted and the compost obtained will be given to farmers for use as organic fertilizer. Dry waste such as paper, plastic, and metal will be recycled, while the non-recyclable bits will be compacted in landfills. “We have also received several proposals from various companies to set up power plants in landfills,” Goel said.
Bangalore, with a population of 8.5 million, produces nearly 3,000 tonnes of waste per day. Around 53% of this is vegetable and organic waste, while paper and plastic makes for about 20%.
Goel has mandated bulk waste generators such as hotels, restaurants and residential apartments to compost at source or process waste using bio-methanization techniques.
There has been some opposition to this. The Bangalore Hoteliers’ Association, disagreeing with plan, said in a statement that it was in favour of establishing automated garbage segregating units in each locality as setting up biogas plants was economically infeasible.
For composting to be successful, segregation at source is a must. While no concrete figures are available, a 2011 study by Ranjith Kharvel Annepu, research associate at Columbia University, found that the results of composting in India are rather poor.
“Since almost all these (composting) plants handle mixed solid wastes, the percentage of rejects which go to the landfill is very high,” the report notes.
Annepu observed that only 6-7% of the input solid waste was converted into compost. Discounting moisture and other losses, nearly 60% of the solid waste is land-filled.
This translates into composting being a small part of the solution in India. For instance, in Delhi, of the nearly 11,500 tonnes of waste generated daily , only 825 tonnes is composted.
Sustaining segregation of waste is hard as it involves changing habits acquired over a long period of time. In recent months, newspapers have reported that the response to segregation initiatives in various cities had sagged. The Hindu newspaper reported in September that segregation efforts in Coimbatore had to be restarted due to tepid response.
But this time is different, says Meenakshi Bharath, president of the Bangalore branch of the Loksatta Party and a member of the solid waste management round table, a consortium of civil society organizations working on waste management. “I believe that this is the first time that a city corporation has given a central directive making it mandatory for segregation of waste at source,” she said.
Preparedness of garbage collectors has been another concern. Suhas S., president of residents association K Byrasandra Welfare Association in north Bangalore, said municipal workers mixed the carefully segregated waste that he had set aside. Complaints on non-collection of garbage in some parts were also made on the BBMP’s Facebook page.
Much of the strategies behind tackling solid waste management are laid out by the environment ministry in the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000. These rules, formulated after a petition was filed in the Supreme Court seeking hygienic solid waste management, mandated source segregation, composting, and other techniques such as refuse-driven fuel and waste-to-energy conversion to be implemented as early as 2003.
However, these were largely unimplemented. The Columbia University study notes that a lack of infrastructural, financial, and human resources impeded the implementation of the rules. “Although some cities have achieved some progress in SWM, many cities and towns have not even initiated measures,” the report notes.
Almitra Patel from Bangalore, who filed the petition in the Supreme Court in 1996, says BBMP’s initiative is 12 years overdue. “Since Vedic times, food waste has gone back to the land. The BBMP’s plan to take food waste unmixed with anything else and give it to farmers will increase crop productivity,” she says.
BBMP has initiated a programme with the state’s organic farming mission to supply segregated organic waste to farmers around Bangalore.
Teething problems exist. The protests by villages around the landfills means BBMP doesn’t have a functioning landfill now. A proposal to use one of the landfill sites in north Bangalore for composting is being resisted. “It was a quick turnaround by the BBMP, so there are bound to be problems,” says Bharath. But with segregation, the city’s garbage will reduce by at least by 25%, she says.