A truck to transport both wet and dry waste: why it’s a problem

Mixed collection of waste and black spot. Photo: Pinky Chandran

A lonely pace with giant bags hanging from the edges and plastic bags of mixed rubbish stacked in the van is a familiar sight in Bangalore. Despite the fact that over the past few years, neighborhoods that have started using separate vehicles to collect different waste streams have seen a much better quality of waste collection. It ensured that easy-to-recycle waste was not sent to landfills or burned at the roadside.

Recently, BBMP said it plans to stop sending separate vehicles to collect dry waste and will consider a single vehicle with compartmentalized spaces collecting all waste streams. Experts in sustainable waste management and citizens’ groups question the rationality and economic viability of this plan.

The waste may end up being mixed in one lorry, campaigners worry. “It will have an impact on the quality of segregation, because people will feel what’s the point if it’s going to be mixed again,” says Odette Katrak, co-founder of Beautiful Bharat.

The Swachh Bharat Mission Urban Guidance on Efficient Collection and Transportation of Municipal Solid Waste published in July 2020 clearly states the importance of scientifically collecting and transporting sorted waste.

Read more: Solid waste management: BBMP budget prioritizes worst solution of all, more landfills

Is this BBMP plan more oriented towards landfill management, as opposed to decentralized waste management? Recent budget allocations indicate just that – a whopping Rs 300+ crores or 22% of SWM’s total budget has been allocated to landfill management.

Other questions that remain unanswered:

  • How will the BBMP ensure the integrity of sorted waste?
  • What happens when households continue to deposit mixed waste in the vehicle?
  • Will a single vehicle solve the problem of black spots?
  • How can ULB speed up implementation?
  • According to the neighborhood microplan model, what will be the time interval between pick-up and delivery to the designated point.
A brief timeline of the DWCC model in Bangalore
Current system: A brief timeline of the DWCC model in Bengaluru. 1 credit

How the waste collection process improved after 2017

In 2017, BBMP, seeking to improve segregation levels, passed an order stating that dry waste will only be collected twice a week. The BBMP has also stated its intention to decentralize waste collection and transportation. As part of this move, DWCCs were asked to pick up dry waste.

The first DWCC to start door-to-door collection of dry waste took place in district 163 – Katriguppe. This was followed by wards 194 – Gottigere, 195 – Konanakunte, 150 – Bellandur and others. DWCC operators received basic infrastructure and had to perform secondary sorting and aggregation. They supported themselves with the money they earned by selling dry waste. The BBMP data portal has been useful in capturing and tracking the amount of dry waste collected and sent through the value chain.

In 2018, the BBMP appointed Resource Organizations (ROs) – non-profit organizations that facilitated decentralized dry waste management systems with operational support, training, outreach and communication. ROs have empowered waste pickers to run the centers independently and become social entrepreneurs.

“It helps fulfill an important clause which is the inclusion of waste pickers as outlined in the 2016 Solid Waste Management Rules,” says Swachha Eco Solutions Co-Founder Rajesh Babu. Swachha is one such resource organization that supports and oversees door-to-door collection and transportation of dry waste from four divisions of Bengaluru covering 28 wards with about 3.92 lakh households and a population of 15.7 lakhs.

When the BBMP announced its decision in January 2020 to penalize residents for non-segregation, volunteers were upset at the lack of implementation and enforcement and demanded separate vehicles.

In September 2020, the BBMP decided to implement a new garbage disposal system in 38 neighborhoods, with separate vehicles for the collection of wet, sanitary and dry waste, in accordance with the neighborhood microplan. This was implemented after the completion of a pilot project in the neighborhood of Govindrajnagar (104). However, the old practice continued in areas where DWCC operators collected waste separately.

Separate vehicles collecting dry waste saw more segregation

In December 2020, the BBMP found that levels of segregation had improved by up to 39% in these neighborhoods. The best performing neighborhoods were Singansandra, Rayapuram, Nayandahalli, Mangamanpalya and Uttarahalli.

Prior to curbside collection by DWCCs, the average waste received at the centers was around 600-800kg per day. Much of the high value waste was sold by BBMP for akarmikas/dumpster drivers. Much of the waste reaching the DWCCs was of low value. Some were also thrown to the side of the road or burned. “After the introduction of a separate vehicle for dry waste, the average received increased to 2.5 tonnes,” says Rajesh of Eco Solutions. Indeed, segregation and collection have improved and the better quality of waste reaching the DWCCs, making their operations more economically viable.

“Dry Waste Vehicles (and DWCCs) have worked more closely with citizen groups because their income depends on better collection and segregation,” says Whitefield Rising member Anjali Saini.

Read more: Brand Audit 2021: Here are the top plastic waste producers in Karnataka

Levels of segregation have certainly increased in departments that have had separate collections for more than three years. “In our experience, separate collection of dry waste by vehicle yields positive results in source segregation,” says Vishwanath C, Director, Livelihoods Hasiru Dala. “While the average is around 46% where collection started a year ago, in Konanakunte and (Bangalore South Division) which started separate collection three years ago, the collection rate is 100%. People get used to collecting twice a week. (Collection rate is based on actual data versus estimated waste based on service micro plan calculations).

SL. Nope Period Total incoming waste DTDC & PK’s Drop Off (in MT) Total recyclable materials (in MT) MLP/non-recyclable sent for co-processing (in MT) Total number of neighborhoods engaged in DTDC
1 2017-18 9,171.25 2,751.38 6419.88 27
2 2018-19 9,908.19 2972.46 6,935.73 19
3 2019-2020 8,713.58 2,614.07 6,099.51 21
4 2020-2021 11,091.69 3,327.51 7,764.18 44
5 January 2021- December 2021 15,581.67 4,674.50 10,907.17 40
Total 54,466.38 16,339.91 38,126.47
Data is tracked daily, weekly, monthly and annually in the DWCC. Along with GPS data, trends are mapped. Data source: Hasiru Dala
dry waste trends from April 2021 to December 2021
Dry waste trends from April 2021 to December 2021. Source: Hasiru Dala

“We were delighted when BBMP turned to different providers for dry waste and wet waste collection in 2017,” says Odette Katrak. “It has made it easier for all the volunteers on the ground, working hard to push for proper segregation and no mixing of waste, whether at household collection level or at the vendor stage. Why change something that works well?

Assess what is happening on the ground

“Policies cannot be made in the boardroom,” says Aparna Kumar, Waste Management Volunteer, Ward 177 – JP Nagar. “In Bangalore, the citizens’ movement has grown and most of the work has happened after trial and error and the systems have been fine-tuned. Without baseline assessment and consultation, there is no point in changing policies.”

“It’s a shame that there was no consultation, no data analysis, no discussion,” adds Rajesh. “Any new process must have a process of justification and if liability is the issue, BBMP must go back and verify the records. BBMP had mandated the installation of GPS in all dry waste vehicles, and RFID has was set up. There were signature books and all data had to be entered into the BBMP portal. In addition, photos also had to be sent to the BBMP”.

CNG vehicle collecting dry waste
CNG vehicle collecting dry waste. Photo credit: Hasiru Dala Archives

Need to support the dry waste collection system

“The BBMP needs to set destinations,” says Aparna Kumar. “If the destinations are weak, segregation is useless. DWCCs, for example, are critical infrastructure, but they continue to be neglected, despite the excellent contribution they make to the recovery of materials, especially low-value waste, and we have the statistics to prove it. .

“We need to build the capacity of (models) with (high) potential like the separate dry waste collection system.”

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