The three-bin story that has come good

The ‘Alag Karo’ slogan is “Har Din Teen Bin” for the three categories of waste to be collected at source   -  Ronny Sen

How a waste segregation programme, ‘Alag Karo’, has made all the difference in Gurugram

One of the largest gated residential apartment buildings in Gurugram is Orchid Petals — with 25 towers, 32 villas and 6,000 residents. The 1,532 households here generate 1,900 kg of waste every day, of which 1,000 kg comprises wet waste. Of this, the housing complex recycles 700 kg of dry waste per day, collects e-waste separately and has a composting unit for organic waste. It took about seven months to achieve these 95 per cent segregation levels.

In January this year, Orchid Petals received the Swachhta Award from the local Municipality.

The residential complex was part of the ‘Alag Karo’ programme that was launched in 2017 in Delhi’s national capital region (NCR) by voluntary organisation Saahas, with CSR funding from Coca-Cola India, Tetra Pak and the German Agency for International Development GIZ. ‘Alag Karo’ in Hindi literally means segregation, hence the project was to get housing societies to segregate their waste at source, so that only a very small fraction reaches landfills. Today, Saahas is working with around 40 housing complexes from where 20 tonnes of waste is collected daily and seven tonnes is processed.

However, everything did not go well for Orchid Petals from day one. According to a report on segregation by Saahas, the Resident Welfare Association (RWA) was not convinced about door-to-door collection of waste and decided to go in for common floor level bins. “However, within 20 days, the RWA saw that the common bin system was not working out inspite of the process. So, they set up an on-site composting unit with a capacity of 1 tonne per day and also documented and passed a waste management policy. The housekeeping contract was modified to include source segregation as part of their SOP, which also meant adding more housekeeping staff,” says the report.

But the crucial thing was that the housing complex did not give up, they faced the challenges and tried and tested different methods to come up with what suited them most.

“We believe that each complex should customise its segregation to what is the most suitable for it. The key to efficient and optimal waste management is segregation,” says Sonia Garga, Project Director of Saahas.

She explains that when mixed waste is allowed to leave every home and has to be subsequently manually segregated, it gives rise to several negatives.

It impacts the health of waste workers who are tasked to segregate it and exposes them to hazardous conditions, often causing physical injury as well. Mixed waste also cannot be composted or recycled and loses its value. Hence, it reaches the landfills, spreading bad odour, disease in the neighbourhood and giving rise to methane-induced fires.

This is exactly why Alag Karo works with households, commercial institutions and schools to help them begin the process of segregating waste at source and play a positive role in the waste chain.

Addressing the challenges

But how does one go about this? Residents of Delhi NCR (or any other city or town) are used to using just one bin, packing it with dry, wet and hazardous waste indiscriminately and tipping it over into filthy garbage dumps.

Most of those who live in gated communities do not even handle the waste themselves and leave it to the discretion of their domestic help.

Garga explains how Saahas, after its many years of experience in waste segregation in Bengaluru, has worked out a 10-step process. In residential complexes, Saahas starts with meeting the RWAs, motivating residents, and auditing the waste. It then looks for committed volunteers who will help in putting the waste segregation project on track and conducts door-to-door campaigns along with them.

It trains residents, domestic help and the housekeeping staff on the nuances of segregation and monitors the process hands-on. According to the feedback received, challenges are addressed, all the time focusing on the ultimate aim of institutionalising source segregation.

The Alag Karo slogan is “Har Din Teen Bin” which in Hindi means three bins every day. These are for the three categories of waste to be collected at source — bio-degradable, non-biodegradable and domestic hazardous. When segregated, it can be turned into a resource.

The three-way source segregation is not new. It was mandated in the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016. In fact, in Gurugram, there has been a penalty on littering for years, under the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram Act 1994. Unfortunately, these laws were not implemented.

But of late, the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) has become pro-active. It has imposed fines on bulk generators, introduced user charges for door-to-door collection and buys back compost from RWAs.

“With MCG cooperating it is easier to bring housing complexes on board. We get more requests than we can handle now,” says Garga, pointing out that there is still a long way to go. Gurugram currently generates 1,000 tonnes of waste every day — enough to fill a cricket stadium in three months. However, with Coca-Cola India, Tetra Pak and GIZ extending their funding from the initial three years, Saahas hopes to multiply its impact. It also hopes to make inroads into Delhi.

Published on June 04, 2019

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