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Updated: August 28, 2012 09:58 IST

Here’s a renaissance of civic responsibility

Tanu Kulkarni
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How a community made waste segregation mandatory

Fed up with the garbage contractor’s haphazard and indifferent attitude to picking up trash, a few residents of the Renaissance Park apartments in Malleswaram in Bangalore looked for alternatives and decided to experiment disposing of waste on their own.

This was three-and-a-half years ago. Today, 120 households in this apartment complex segregate their waste, thereby saving the city the bother of clearing 44 tonnes of garbage annually.

It all started when a few residents, after a brainstorming session, decided to segregate waste on a pilot basis for six months.

Sowmya Vishwanath, one of the residents in the apartment complex, said: “We had to figure out a procedure and started the first level of segregation at the household level.”

Five categories

Each household was expected to segregate its waste into five categories — wet waste, biomedical waste, paper, plastic and metal waste — and a schedule was devised for housekeeping staff. e-waste had to be dropped off in bins in the basement.

During the first six months, there were block coordinators for the project and instructions were provided to the residents.

Ms. Vishwanath added: “We would draw pie charts and graphs and pin them on the notice board to motivate residents.”

Initial hiccups

Of course, there were initial hiccups. Ms. Vishwanath said: “We decided that this process would have to happen collectively. Yet, there were some people who would take their garbage in the car and throw it outside the apartment. Sometimes, we would find anonymous bags [thrown out] in the corridor.”

To make sure everybody adhered to waste segregation, the apartment’s association decided to be strict with the residents, making it clear that waste would not be picked up if they did not segregate it. The association also gave auditing sheets to the housekeeping staff to monitor where the waste for each house was being segregated. While some residents felt a sense of pride in carrying out this activity, others attributed the project’s success to peer pressure.

Children’s role

Today, for Sukanya, another resident, and her family the process now has become routine.

She said: “Children were drivers of this project and helped keep the motivation levels high.”

After successfully initiating this project, the residents, about a year ago, moved to the next level: secondary segregation. Ms. Vishwanath said: “The housekeeping staff further segregates the paper, plastic and metal waste.

“For instance, paper is divided into cardboard, notebooks and newspapers. Similarly, plastic is categorised into bottles and bags. Milk pouches get some value; carton boxes generate more money than paper. So we realised that secondary segregation gave us better value for the products and the association understood the economics of it.”

The money earned through this has been used to provide incentives for the housekeeping staff as well as buying paper bags which can be used for disposal of biowaste products such as diapers, syringes and sanitary pads.

New occupants

The residents mentioned that today the process has become mandatory and new occupants in the apartments are briefed on garbage segregation as soon as they move in. They are told in no uncertain terms the process is mandatory.

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