Lack of facilities for cleaning and drying of plastic waste

For Kudumbasree sanitation workers in the city, plastic waste has always been a problem of sorts, right from whether it should be collected along with other waste to what should be done once it is collected.

The opening of a plastic-waste-processing unit at West Hill by the city Corporation in March this year was expected to put to rest these issues, but questions still remain.

The Kudumbasree workers used to collect plastic waste till about two years ago. They were instructed to stop it when the civic body started thinking of waste segregation. This continued until the opening of the plastic processing plant four months ago. But within a month, problems began to crop up as the workers were expected to deliver ‘clean’ plastic waste. The workers are supposed to be paid Rs.4 for every kg of plastic waste they deliver at the plant.

During the opening of the plant, Mayor A.K. Premajam had said that only clean plastic would be recycled in the plant.

She urged the people to adopt the practice of proper segregation of waste in households. Kudumbasree workers were asked not to collect plastic bags or waste soiled with remains of food or other items.

“We had told people to give us only clean plastic waste. But this did not have any effect, and most of the time we ended up cleaning it ourselves. The waste is not segregated also. The segregation and the cleaning started taking up more time than the actual waste collection. The plastic that we get is soiled badly with food waste of many days,” says P.T. Girija, one of the workers.

The lack of facilities for cleaning and drying in many of the areas aggravated the problem. With the onset of the monsoon, drying was out of the question.

“The plant authorities refuse to accept plastic waste that is not cleaned and dried. How are we supposed to dry it during such incessant rain?” asks Malar, a Kudumbasree worker.

Even though the plastic collection from Kudumbasree has come down, the pile at the plant in West Hill remains big.

The five workers at the plant say that they work non-stop to clear the mounting waste. The amount of rejects (plastic that cannot be processed) is high, as is evident from the huge piles gathered at the Corporation’s plot adjacent to the plant.

“Most of the rejects are of low-quality plastic that crumbles if processed. Also, wet or unclean plastic cannot be processed,” says one of the workers.

When contacted by The Hindu, Janamma Kunjunni, chairperson of the Corporation’s standing committee on health, blamed the Kudumbasree workers for the state of affairs at the plant.

“There is no facility to segregate waste at the plant. Only processing is done there.

“The Kudumbasree workers sometimes throw all the waste without segregation. So the amount of rejects is high,” says Ms. Kunjunni.

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