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With dumping grounds of Mumbai overflowing, solid waste management is a challenge like never before, finds DEEPIKA MITAL

The statistics of waste generated by Mumbai and other cities might just appear as numbers, but look around you at the increasing filth and debris that is seen on every roadside - even our army of ragpickers cannot contain or control the mounds of rubbish we generate. And in any case there is very little they can do with the organic matter generated by homes - it all just goes to rot in the landfill, spoiling all that it comes into contact with. This is not "somebody else"s" problem - it is ours!
Harshad Gandhi, waste management consultant with the agenda of sensitising people about this huge problem says, "Don"t pass on the problem to the local municipality, this can be handled at the individual or society level much more effectively. Decentralisation of waste management is the only way to contain the problem."
The not for profit organisation Decent, has come out with an organic waste converter or OWC that can handle waste from anywhere between 300 to 400 homes on an average of 1 kg waste per home. The machine itself is under 3 lakh but add ons like the curing system and garden waste shredder (if needed) can push the cost up to between 8 and 9 lakhs, with VAT. The curing system is recommended for getting compost that can then be reused in gardens locally or sold in the market outside. The complete cost of wet waste disposal, including the capital costs and running charges like electricity work out to between 1 and 2 rupees per kilogram of waste. This is quite reasonable, when one looks at the added benefit of being eco friendly and getting great garden manure in the bargain!
Current methods of waste collection efficiency ranges from 50% to 90%. Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) spend between Rs.500/- to Rs.1500/- per ton on solid waste management, of which 60% to 70% is spent on collection alone, 20% to 30% on transportation and less than 5% on treatment and disposal which is very essential to prevent environmental pollution. Mumbai city generates around 6500 tonnes of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW). This is dumped in the city"s two dumping grounds at Deonar and Mulund. Yet 10 to 40% of the waste remains on the streets unattended to.
The Ministry of Urban Development acknowledges that the problem of urban waste management is notable not only because of large quantities involved, but also its spatial spread across 5161 cities and towns and enormity and variety of problems involved in setting up and managing systems for collection, transportation and disposal of waste.
Kalpataru Towers, a 28-storey residential complex at Kandivali with 480 apartments has installed one unit of such an OWC. "The Organic Waste Converter is a very important part of our after-sales service, once all the flats are occupied the unit will be available to residents in the towers on a rotational basis," says the project’s environment engineer, Mr. Farooqui Safir. Cricket Club of India (CCI) has also installed this converter and is now selling the manure generated to members.
A composting machine treats wet organic waste at source. It converts wet organic waste to odour free, nutrient rich compost, useful for gardening, landscaping and improving the quality of soil. This reduces cost of collection, disposal and transportation of waste to dumping grounds. Composting is possible through aerobic and anaerobic methods too, but Gandhi points out that this machine can deal with cooked organic matter like leftover food too, which is a problem with vermiculture and other methods of composting.
Unfortunately segregation compliance is a problem and one suggestion to employ a rag picker to segregate the garbage is not taken well by Advocate Vinod Shetty of Acorn Foundation, an NGO involved with rag pickers of Dharavi. He says, "Once the wet matter is taken out of the garbage, rag pickers will find it very easy
to recycle whatever is left. It would be demeaning for rag pickers to be asked to segregate wet and dry waste at the housing society. Better would be for the members of the society to be educated. We are doing this as an ongoing project at schools where educating children is a much more difficult job, so adults should definitely be able to comply."
Even though the BMC rules state that segregation is a must, those who do segregate their garbage know that this is again tipped in with the rest of the garbage, only to be segregated on the truck, en route to the dumping ground, despite all the rules having been framed by the BMC! Shetty continues, "The very fact that ragpickers are willing to do this for a living suggests that there is money in it, which is being made by someone opposed to changing the current system."
The bottomline is that if households can be bothered to save all their newspapers and beer bottles, because both command a price at the local kabadiwalla, then the economic connect should be made that they can earn from the rest of the waste matter. Organic manure can be used within the home and sold for a price outside; dry waste can be sold as is. The ragpickers are making enough money…. So, why not you?