As the subject of garbage raises a stink, environmentalist Shibu K. Nair, a volunteer of Thanal, explains how the problem can be alleviated to a certain extent by collective action

It is not an issue that can be dumped or wished away. As the issue of collection of garbage and solid waste management festers, some residents in the city have adopted a hands-on policy to deal with garbage instead of throwing up their hands in despair.

Shibu K. Nair, a volunteer with the non-governmental organisation Thanal, and an expert in waste management and advocate of zero-waste, feels that if several, if not all, households take the responsibility for household waste generated in their houses, the situation can be alleviated to a great extent. “We may not be able to do away with processing plants completely, but the mountains of unsorted garbage can be reduced,” he says.

Simple methods

His advice is to adapt simple methods such as composting, vermi composting or installation of biogas plants to manage bio-degradable waste. “Plastic, glass, and paper should be collected and sold through resident associations or collectives of households. Residents must understand that they cannot live in splendid isolation and expect others to take care of their household waste,” says Shibu.

He maintains that each person must act conscientiously to tackle household waste. “We cannot do away with certain forms of plastic. But, instead of throwing away plastic covers, we can wash them, dry them, and accumulate such covers to be sold to rag pickers. There are organisations like Chennai-based kuppathotti.com that buys the dry waste if you inform them,” he says.

Citing the example of the Pune-based Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakri Panchayat, a cooperative of rag pickers, Shibu says that the rag pickers should be seen as an essential link in the collection and management of waste. “Right now, this kind of collection is not economically viable. But if each residents' association or office collects dry waste such as plastics and bottles and decides on a collection point, then the logistics becomes easier. Perhaps, a data base of such rag pickers can be made available to apartments and residents' associations,” he explains.

For instance, he says residents of Heera Castle, near Pattom, led by the apartment's secretary, Jagat Babu, are trying to turn trash into cash by collecting the dry waste instead of trying to dispose it off individually.

T.K. Bhaskar Panicker, patron of the Federation of Residents Association, Thiruvananthapuram (FRAT), is among several citizens in the city who are composting biodegradable waste in their own houses. “For the last 50 years, I have been into segregation of waste and doing various kinds of composting of wet waste. I have advised residents in my association to compost the wet waste and segregate and collect plastic and other dry waste in separate bags or containers. When it is full, we plan to contact an agency to buy it,” he says. He insists that every citizen must act to resolve the garbage issue rather than blaming the Government or the Corporation.

Setting an example

Shibu also believes that all Government offices should go in for composting of wet waste to set an example. “However the only one that has adopted this is the Hydrography office at Thampanoor. If it were made mandatory for every Government office, then a movement could be set in place. But the Government and the Corporation do not seem to be serious about this. They are looking at very expensive hi-tech solutions that might not be feasible for a small State like Kerala,” he explains. Instead of taking away the livelihood of Kudumbasree workers, they could be trained to handle waste management on a micro-level, as is being done in Mumbai, he adds. “Such workers are called ‘parisar sevikas.' They can be taught to show residents how to separate the dry and wet waste, compost biodegradable waste, monitor collection points of dry waste and so on…,” says Shibu. For Rs. 650, Thanal sets up ‘compots' that can be used for two to three years. He feels that the authorities should be thinking of ways to deal with discarded batteries, tube lights, thermocols, and so on…

While the city reels under the onslaught of garbage, these citizens maintain that each of us can do our bit to keep the surroundings clean.

Do It Yourself

As most environmentalists would say, it is local action and global thinking that is needed to tackle the menace of waste.

Source-level processing of bio-degradable kitchen waste

Segregation of dry waste plastics from wet waste

Installation of a common collection point for plastics, glass and paper

Linking with organisations like the Chennai-based

kuppathotti.com, which buys all kinds of dry waste

Linking up with rag pickers and cooperating with them.

Saying no to disposable plastics

All government offices should have facilities to compost wet waste

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MetroplusJune 28, 2012