A trash trail with business leaders

I went on a 3 hour trip with a few industry leaders as well as BBMP officials yesterday, looking at some of the ‘trail’ of waste in the city. The idea was to get buy-in from all the chambers of industry to start doing whatever they can within their own campuses and also understand the economics of the waste trail. Three places that we visited all have important learnings to offer.

The biogas plant at IIM, Bangalore substitutes for 16 cylinders of LPG each day, out of the wet waste collected on campus itself. It cost about 10 lakhs to set up, and has some operational cost, but at that rate of recovery of costs, it’s a no-brainer. It requires only minimal space, less than a 30×40 site. If more residential and/or campuses go down this route, we could substitute their energy needs and reduce waste to landfill, both at the same time.

Then we went to see a scrap dealer in Gottigere. Altaf specialises in paperboard and in tetrapack-type juice containers. His facility is not that large, maybe 4000 square feet in all. He collects from various companies around him, bales things up and sends them on to his buyers, who include manufacturers of the food packaging too. There’s a reasonable margin between his cost of acquiring the recyclables and the resale price he gets.

What we need is this kind of facility all over town, ideally specialising in different kinds of dry waste. The dry waste collection centres (DWCC) that BBMP is setting up are not specific to certain product lines, but I wonder if they could run into inefficiencies because of that. It would be better to have (in a cluster) on DWCC for glass, another for wood, a third for paperboard, and so on. 

Also, such services should be empanelled by BBMP. Today, they’re operating at the margins of the economy, simply because there is a need for what they do, and they are entrepreneurial enough to do it. But the system actually works against them, rather than enabling them to become formally recognised, and helping to grow such businesses. We discussed this, and the Commissioner has agreed to start an empaneling process for dry waste handlers.

Then we went to the Karnataka Compost Development Corporation site near Singsandra. It’s a standard large-scale vermi-composting operation, which can punch a couple of hundred tons of wet waste through on a daily basis. But in 2008, BBMP went and totally messed up their functioning by dumping 12 lakh tonnes of MIXED waste on their premises. They’ve been struggling to sort that ever since, because they can only process WET waste, and it looks like it will take a year more to complete, at the current pace. 

They had requested BBMP to buy them one more sorting machine, which could cut the time in half, they say. But the ‘file’ is as usual going around in circles for years. Finally, with the SWM crisis mounting, BBMP has woken up and agreed to fund that. It is appalling how sometimes we allow great tragedies to build up because we don’t do small things right.

I think it was good for many of our industry leaders to see all this. Many admitted that the ‘trail’ of trash they saw was an eye-opener to them, and promised to initiate conservation practices within their campuses. I’ll try to organise such visits a few more times, and a few other facilities also, so that there can be wider appreciation of the full chain of waste operations needed to build a truly clean city.

Ashwin Mahesh
About Ashwin Mahesh 85 Articles
Ashwin Mahesh has been involved in public policy for Bengaluru through his work with the Karnataka government. The views expressed here are his own. He is a member of the Lok Satta party. He is also CEO of Mapunity Information Services, and a director at Oorvani Media, publisher of Citizen Matters and India Together. He is also a visiting faculty with the Centre for Public Policy at IIM Bangalore.

1 Comment

  1. hi

    its good work but the govt is not stable and if govt can join hands we can solve this problem of waste in one month for ever.

    Abhilash aradhya

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