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Segregation of recyclable waste at source

In all parts of the country, people by and large do salvage re-usable or saleable material from waste and sell it for a price, e.g. newspaper, glass bottles, empty tins, plastic bags, old clothes etc., and to that extent such reusable / recyclable waste material is not thrown out for disposal. However, a lot of recyclable dry waste such as waste paper, plastic, broken glass, metal, packaging material etc., is not segregated and is thrown on the streets along with domestic / trade / institutional waste. Such waste is picked up to some extent by poor rag picker for their livelihood. At times they empty the dustbins and spread the contents around for effective sorting and collection. By throwing such recyclable material on the streets or into a common dustbin, the quality of recyclable material deteriorates as it gets soiled by wet waste, which often contains contaminated and hazardous waste.

Segregation of recyclable waste at source is thus not seriously practised by households and establishments, who throw such waste on the streets or in the municipal bins unsegregated. At least 15% of the total waste can conveniently be segregated at source for recycling, which is being thrown on the streets in absence of the practice of segregation of waste at source. Part of this waste is picked up by rag-pickers in a soiled condition and sold to middle men at a low price, who in turn pass on the material to the recycling industry at a higher price after cleaning or segregation and the waste that remains uncollected finds its way to the dumping grounds

"Landfilling" practices

By and large, crude dumping of waste is done in the country without following the principles of sanitary landfilling. As negligible segregation of waste at source takes place, all waste including hospital infectious waste generally finds its way to the disposal site. Quite often industrial hazardous waste is also deposited at dump sites meant for domestic waste.

The waste deposited at the dump site is generally neither spread nor compacted on a regular basis. It is also not covered with inert material. Thus, very unhygienic conditions prevail on the dump sites

Segregation of recyclable waste

It is essential to save the recyclable waste material from going to the waste processing and disposal sites and using up landfill space. Profitable use of such material could be made by salvaging it at source for recycling. This will save national resource and also save the cost and efforts to dispose of such waste. This can be done by forming a habit of keeping recyclable waste material separate from food waste and other bio-degradable wastes, in a separate bag or bin at the source of waste generation, by having a two-bin system for storage of waste at homes, shops and establishments where the domestic food waste (cooked and uncooked) goes into the Municipal system and recyclable waste can be handed over to the waste collectors (rag-pickers) at the door step.

The following measures may be taken by the local bodies towards the segregation of recyclable waste:

The local body may mobilize NGO's or co-operatives to take up the work of organizing street rag-pickers and convert them to door-step "waste collectors" by motivating them to stop picking up soiled and contaminated solid waste from the streets, bins or disposal sites and instead improve their lot by collecting recyclable clean material from the doorstep on daily basis. The local bodies may, considering the important role of rag pickers in reducing the waste and the cost to the local body in transportation of such waste, even consider extending financial help to NGO's and co-operatives in providing some tools and equipment to the rag pickers for efficient performance of their work in the informal sector.

The Local Bodies may actively associate resident associations, trade & industry associations, CBO's and NGO's in creating awareness among the people to segregate recyclable material at source and hand it over to a designated identified waste collector. The local body may give priority to the source segregation of recyclable waste by shops and establishments and later concentrate on segregation at the household level.

The upgraded rag-pickers on becoming door-step waste-collectors, may be given an identity card by the NGO's organizing them so that they may have acceptability in society. The local body may notify such an arrangement made by he NGO's and advise the people to cooperate.

This arrangment could be made on "no payment on either side basis" or people may negotiate payment to such waste collectors for the doorstep service provided to sustain their efforts.

(Based on the recommendations made by the committee constituted by the Honble. supreme court of India, in 1999.)

ICPE Initiative

ICPE engaged itself to implement the recommendations of the committee, and associated itself with some NGO's and the local bodies in helping the collection, segregation and diverting the segregated dry wasye to recycling process and thus stoping their way to the landfills. Experimental Waste Management System was initiated at some wards of Mumbai following the above guideline.

Waste Management System at BrihnMumbai Municipal Corporation :

In Mumbai, constant effort is being made to separate the Dry and Wet waste at the source itself, so that the Dry wastes could be further segregated into different types of wastes and could be sent for recycling, resulting in lesser load to the landfill, sites.

There is an increasing activity among various Local Self Government Councils to treat the wet waste also through vermiculture or similar process, to generate compost which can be used as fertilizers.

ICPE along with some NGO's have joined hands with BMC in some Wards of Mumbai to propagate the Proper Solid Waste Management culture among the citizens.

Though it is a uphill task, at least in some areas of different wards, (like in 'A' and 'D' Wards) of Mumbai, the results are evident.

Here is a brief description of the work being practised:

For a brief photographic description, click below :-

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'A' - Ward ( Cuffe Parade Area) :

1. BMC has given a secured area and a shed for segregation of dry waste.

2. BMC has also provided 2 nos. 1 tonner vans with drivers, free of cost, to move in the locality for 8 hours to collect dry wastes from households.

3. BMC has given Identity badges to the rag pickers who have been identified by the NGO's.

4. Some rag pickers accompany the BMC vans and collect dry wastes from door steps of the households/society buildings and bring those to the BMC allotted sheds for segregation.

5. The dry wastes are product-wise segregated into : paper, plastics, metal and others. Obviously, within each product, there are different categories e.g. in metal, there would be iron, aluminium foil etc. In plastics, there would be PE, PP films, polystyrene cups, HDPE solid items / caps etc.

6. These segregated dry wastes are stored in the secured sheds for disposal.

7. When sufficient quantity of scrap is accumulated, scrap dealers come to these sheds, weigh the scraps and pay the ragpickers / co-ordinator the cost of the scraps, and collect the dry waste. Generally, this collection takes place once in a week. (In some places, where the sheds are not well secured, rag pickers dispose off their segregated wastes every alternate day, or even daily to the recycles / traders)

8. The wet wastes are collected by separate BMC vans from the household localities - directly to the landfills.

In some societies, local self government council or the societies themselves are collecting the wet wastes also for composting, resulting into zero garbage concept. However, this is not yet widely practised in general.

ICPE has provided collection bins, hand gloves, aprons, masks, etc. to the rag pickers, and promotional literature to the society members. ICPE also interacted with BMC, NGO's and others for co-ordiation of the activities apart from providing training to ragpickers and conducting awareness programmes to the general public, school children, members of the housing societies etc.

ICPE provided dedicated co-ordinators to the NGO's for effective monitering of the pilot projects in the initial stage.

BMC as well as the concerned localities are happy with the activities carried out at 'A' and 'D' Ward.
Activity has now been extended to some other wards also.

The NGO's which are closely working with ICPE in these projects are : Stree Mukti Sanghatana, NAGAR, FORCE etc


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