It doesn’t just make environmental sense to have on-site segregation and composting in apartments, but may also carry with it economic sense as profits trickle in.
A properly managed composting plant in an apartment can lead to greater monetary gain than paying the civic contractor to illegally ferry mixed waste, shows a study by Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) and Sichuan University in China.
Researchers took up case studies of four apartments, which are considered bulk generators for generating more than 10kg of waste daily, with varying degrees of waste management. Two of the cases were in stark contrast: an apartment with 68 houses that uses a tank compositing plant with a near-total achievement in segregation; and another with 92 houses that sends their mixed waste through a BBMP contractor — a contravention of the High Court order on segregation.
The first apartment spent around Rs. 1,500 per household to set up their composting system. The gain, however, was around Rs. 85 per year per household. For the apartment that assumed they were saving money by not installing a composing system and instead chose to pay off the contractor, their annual expenses racked up to Rs. 800 per year per house.
“Even apartments with more expensive composting techniques (for instance, setting up of Organic Waste Converter Machines), the cost works out to lesser than not segregating at all,” said Megha Shenoy, a research fellow from ATREE, who headed the study.
However, the study raises concern that implementing this on a city-wide scale in all apartments will be difficult considering the “contractor mafia”, which continues to illegally accept and dump waste.
After all, BBMP’s tenders under the new rules, which specifies stricter accountability and prohibits picking up of unsegregated waste, have been ignored by contractors multiple times.
“No one will come forward under the new rules because it no more makes it very profitable,” said former High Court Judge N. Kumar, who had passed the order mandating segregation last year.
“When we were looking at the case, we realised that while they picked up 3,500MT, they claimed to have picked up 5,500MT for which they were getting paid by the BBMP. Now, as they have to pick up just 1,500MT from households, they do not find it profitable,” he said.
Moreover, the study recommends a tax incentive for apartments to take up segregation. “Waiving off Solid Waste Management Cess for compliant apartments would save up to Rs. 50 per household monthly. This can be an incentive to take up composting and segregation,” said Dr. Shenoy.
BBMP Joint Commissioner (Solid Waste Management) Sarfaraz Khan said the civic body was considering the proposal.