“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has,” said Margaret Mead. I’ve seen the truth behind these words during my work experience in the Solid Waste Management sector in Bengaluru over the past decade.
When I started work in the domain 10 years ago, I came with no formal background or prior experience in understanding the issues the city faced in handling its waste. A visit to the landfill at Mavallipura was a completely transformative experience. Seeing the mounds and heaps of garbage dumped in a way that made life hell for the villagers, drove home the urgency with which we as citizens had to address this issue. I came home with a very strong resolve to be a part of the solution. As I took a closer look at the dustbin in my home with a newer perspective, I understood how little attention an average citizen pays to the waste they generate on a daily basis.
The sheer number of plastics that were present in the dustbin underlined the necessity of avoiding them in the first place. There are so many disposables that we generate everyday in the name of ease of use and comfort that leave behind a huge trail of plastics that pollute our earth forever. The use of multi-layered plastic for wrappers and covers, the use of styrofoam plates and glasses, plastic covers and bags are all very harmful to the environment. Most of them cannot even be recycled and those which can be, involve energy-intensive methods. But the positive aspect is that, their use can be eliminated to a large extent if we adopt simple practices that are beneficial even to our health. I adopted the practice of carrying my own water bottle and bag with reusable plates, glasses, spoon and even a steel straw whenever I stepped out of the house! This is a simple but a very significant act that every citizen can adopt and it will have a hugely positive impact on the society.
I’ve been fortunate to meet similar minded, passionate citizens in my journey and the collective of some of us led to the formation of SWMRT – Solid Waste Management Round Table. As a team, we have provided policy-level inputs to the state government on solid waste management, held sensitisation and awareness campaigns across the city at all levels and improved livelihoods for waste workers. SWMRT is a fantastic example of what citizen movements can accomplish. We have always campaigned for local management of waste as opposed to spending crores of money in just transporting it to lands outside the city. Our guidelines for segregation of waste at source and its standardised model of having two bins (for wet and reject waste) and one bag (for the dry waste) have now been mandated by the High Court of Karnataka. Segregation of waste at source helps retain value of each component and prevents indiscriminate land filling, while making recycling efficient. The recent ban imposed on the use of many types of plastic across the city is a welcome move and is a huge step in the positive direction.N
early 70 percent of the waste we generate on a daily basis in India is wet in nature and isn’t truly waste. It is a precious resource that can be converted into compost and used to nourish our soils. It is in learning the art and science of composting that I discovered my forte. Nothing gives me greater joy than seeing the amazing compost my worms give me! Over the past decade, I’ve tested and experimented with so many different types of composting units that one can avail of today. All these provide such excellent solutions to the urbanite in ensuring they keep their wet waste away from the landfills. The act of composting soon propelled me into the next spiral of holistic living. I took my first steps into setting up an edible patch on my terrace. Growing safe, healthy food, free from chemicals has brought me closer to nature, while also leading me to the vibrant group of organic terrace gardeners in the city!
There are several issues that our city faces today, especially in the area of solid waste management. At the same time, there have been positive signs too. Our latest campaign – SwachaGraha, aims at having 1 million Bangaloreans take up composting in their home and office spaces. The impact of keeping away even one week’s organic waste from the landfill is tremendous. This movement is driven by the citizens themselves and calls on to take active roles at various levels and bring about remarkable transformations for the better of all in the city. We have a long way to go before Bengaluru’s garbage problems are truly resolved, but I’m optimistic that the citizens will rise to the challenge.
We at SocialStory are running a campaign to help citizens come together and save the city of Bengaluru from dying. Bring out those mobile phones and laptops and share with us the problems you see. Start participating with those who are working for change and share your experiences with us. Please write to us at email@example.com, and we will share your experiences and ideas with our readers.