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Talking trash

D. Saran Raj and C. Prashanth. Photo: M.Periasamy

D. Saran Raj and C. Prashanth. Photo: M.Periasamy  

Two young engineers see great potential in the business of garbage. Not only does it clean up the city, but it is an opportunity for social entrepreneurship, they tell Pankaja Srinivasan.

Twenty-three-year-old C. Prashanth rifles through a soggy mess, picking out bottles, toothpaste tubes, invitation cards and rubber-banded plastic bags with the chutney and sambar still in them. It is a sweltering day and Prashanth and his childhood friend D. Saran Raj are at the Parsns gated community, with Murthy, Ram and Raman, segregating garbage.

The two young engineers made a pact in school that they would do something to clean up the city. Even back then they planted trees, donated blood and cleaned up neighbourhood.

They were fortunate, they say, that along the way they met mentors who inspired them and made them more determined than ever to take up social service. “They taught us how to fish,” smiles Prashanth. One of their first attempts to clean up happened at the Chinnayampalaym lake. It was filled with sewage. Ecologist P. Vincent advised them to use vetiver to clean up the water body. “Sadly, that was a project we could not afford to pursue,” says Prashanth. But that did not deter them and with the help of the local Panchayat head, they cleaned up the debris around the lake and planted 100 native trees there, that still stand there.

Saran Raj and Prashanth have worked for six months at Parsns. Every day, they get there at six in the morning and begin the task of collecting waste from the 650 houses. “We have gone to each house to tell people how to segregate. And now almost all of them comply with the basic separation of the waste into organic and inorganic,” says Saranraj. The gated community has given them space where the garbage is segregated further. “‘No Landfill, no bin fill’ is our goal,” says Prashanth. And this is not impossible to achieve, he says. Already the volume of garbage that goes to the landfill has come down.

“We have recovered nearly 10 tonnes of resources from the household waste in Parsns in one month, so that is the amount that has NOT ended up in the land fill” points out Saran Raj. “And if each household spends just two minutes being mindful when it discards its waste, Coimbatore can turn into a zero waste city. The organic wastes go straight to farmlands while the plastic, paper etc, are sold to the recycling industry.” The community of Parsns has responded positively to the issue of segregation at source. Of course, there are those who slip through the cracks, but still, it has made a huge difference. Prashanth and Saran Raj want to make this a model and work with other apartment complexes in the city, show them how simple and easy it is to segregate waste and tell people how enormously they can contribute towards a garbage-free environment. “No matter how advanced a technology we bring in, till each individual’s attitude towards waste changes, nothing will happen,” says Prashanth. “But, there are many small enterprises and individuals working towards the same goal. Our aim is to connect all the dots and make Coimbatore a clean, zero garbage city.”

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Printable version | May 25, 2020 11:39:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/waste-management-in-coimbatore/article7177179.ece

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