Chennai

A waste management model that thrived during the crisis

The housekeeping staff Photo: special arrangement  

When intense lockdown was in effect, many communities sloughed certain processes off their waste management programme and kept it barely functional. Often, these were partly essential processes. Sometimes, these were processes that lent the programme its uniqueness and effectiveness. CEEBROS Boulevard in Thoraipakkam is among communities that bucked the trend.

Now, the 352-unit community won a green award from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board for the year 2018-19, and its waste management practices had a part in the recognition. So, was the community trying hard to keep its hallowed waste-management system running?

That seems to be hardly the case, going by what Vinod Radhakrishnan, a member of the community’s Management Committee and who holds the house-keeping and garbage segregation portfolio, has to share about his team’s pandemic experience.

The waste-segregation system kept running without a hitch due to its essential character. Before discussing what this means, here is an interesting fact that Vinod and his house-keeping and garbage segregation team noticed during the pandemic.

Credit to the maids

Early on, the community was led to appreciate the pivotal role maids had played in keeping the community’s famed waste-management model running efficiently.

“During the pandemic there was a period of time when none of the maids were allowed into the building. So, it was the residents who had the responsibility of segregating the waste and bringing it down to a space called Green Space and deposit it in the various bins placed there. That is when we realised that the residents in some cases were oblivious to how the process was functioning because it was the maids who had been doing the segregation for them,” Vinod discloses.

“Only then did we realise that the maids had played such an important role in the whole chain of events that helped the waste segregation process. It was good that this awareness dawned on us because the general feeling was that the maids were the ones who were not doing a whole lot of things the way they should be done, while the truth, as we found out, was that the maids were doing a lot of things right. And that when it was left to the residents to handle the process, not much segregation was being done. It was quite quite an eye-opener for us.”

The gains

The community follows what it calls a do-it-yourself model, which requires residents to drop off their segregated waste in the bins placed at the Green Space. There is no door-to-door collection. The community practices finer segregation whereby the recyclables are further segregated into more granular categories.

“We were glad that we had a do-it-yourself waste management system in place. For, where associations that had a door-to-door collection system, everything went into total chaos,” begins Vinod, explaining that at one point, communities could not continue door-to-door collection of waste. He elaborates; “We were one of those lucky ones that were able to move from a door-to-door to a do-it-yourself model and that we were able to hold on to the gains and benefit from that during the pandemic. For, the system still ran. Had we not made the transition from a door-to-door pick-up model to a do-it-yourself model, we would have been caught on the wrong foot during the pandemic,”

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2020 11:35:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/a-waste-management-model-that-thrived-during-the-crisis/article32988968.ece

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