Towards Zero Waste Cities
Waste management crisis in India
With the ever-increasing population and urbanization in India, waste management has become a major challenge, especially in the urban setup. Over the years, there has been a stark increase in the quantity of waste generated, and it is only expected to increase further in the coming years. Currently, as per government estimates, about 65 million tons of waste is generated annually in India, and over 62 million tons of it are Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) that includes organic waste, recyclables like paper, plastic, wood, glass, etc. Delhi currently generates 12,350 tons of solid waste daily, and this is expected to rise to 18,915 tons by 2041.
Much of the dry waste could be recycled and reused. But it is the wet waste, the breeding house of all sorts of diseases, which is often left untreated and goes directly to the huge landfills. Yet there are simple solutions to treat wet waste and convert it into something which can be used by all.
The Intervention: Solutions for Sustainable Waste Disposal
In September 2021, the Indo-Global Social Service Society got an opportunity to work on solid waste management. Step Towards Zero Waste Locality (STZL), a project funded by Microsoft was thus conceived. The project was implemented in D-6 Santushti Apartments, Vasant Kunj society of New Delhi. The colony has 1100 flats, and around 4000 residents. The baseline survey revealed some interesting facts most notably being that 400-450 kgs of wet waste was generated daily in the colony, which the municipal corporation vans picked up and then dumped in the landfills. On the other hand, less than 40% of the residents were segregating their wastes at home and only 20% of them had any information about the Solid Waste Management Rules of 2016.
IGSSS then started with a series of activities with the residents, domestic workers and the sanitation workers of the society. Door-to-door awareness campaigns, distribution of flyers, and training sessions helped them to understand the method and importance of waste segregation and composting. Sanitation workers were specifically trained in segregation methods and how to do composting. Safety gears were also distributed. To ensure further participation and generate more interest, fun events like street plays and magic shows were also organised. Simultaneously, four composting units were also installed in the society. Since the apartment lacked space to adopt the traditional model of digging the compost pit in-ground, it was decided to experiment with a portable iron pit model. It was a risk as we did not have an already established model using an iron pit. However, in discussion with RWA and South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), it was decided to go ahead with the new model. As per the available place and RWA request, IGSSS provided them iron pit, which is mobile and aerobic. It is 5 feet wide, 5 feet long and 4.5 feet high including a 1-foot stand. It has a net on all four sides, openings at front and top, fibre sheet fitted at bottom and top of the pit and covers the four sides up to a height of 20 inches.
Earlier the society used to send 400-450 kgs of wet waste daily to the landfills. Since the composting units were installed in the society, no wet waste has been sent outside. It has been more than 100 days now and it is estimated that 43 tons of wet waste have been prevented so far from going to landfills. Waste segregation at the source has improved by up to 90%. 135 kgs of compost have been made from wet waste which the residents use for their home plants and gardens. It is expected that around 250 kgs of compost will be ready by the end of this month.
In a short span of four months, the society of almost 4000 residents has become a zero-waste society. Its waste pickers are trained and involved in the composting process and managing the composting unit. Residents and domestic workers are aware of types of waste, and they are doing segregation at the source. Many of them have started recycling plastic and other things.
This new model for composting has the potential to be replicated in other similar societies with limited space and can be adopted easily. Creating Zero Waste Localities is the only solution to the looming environmental hazards. Small steps like these can be instrumental in bringing bigger change.
Coverage in Media:
Contributed by: Saif Ul Islam, Project Coordinator, STZL