Do you know where your dry waste ends up?

Segregating your waste is only the first step. Most of us who segregate are quite satisfied when we see that our segregated dry waste is collected properly and ends up at the Dry Waste Collection Centre (DWCC), also called the Kartavya cente. These centres are constructed and handed over by the BBMP to NGOs or other individuals for day to day management. But this is not the end, but rather the beginning of another story.

Issues at the DWCC

The DWCC at Gottigere, the one asssigned to our ward, has more problems than solutions. About 70-80% of what is segregated and sent there from the BBMP auto is untouched saying that it is low quality waste (this is what most raddiwalas also refuse). To know what is happening elsewhere, we visited few other DWCCs. It is the same story everywhere. DWCCs prefer taking segregated dry waste from apartments, especially bulk waste generators, because of the high value items that come, unlike in the case of BBMP autos. So most of them don’t even accept waste from BBMP autos in the first place (which totally beats the purpose of the DWCC). The better DWCCs further segregate items into another 15-20 categories and send it to different recyclers. And what do they do with what can’t be recycled? – it goes back to the landfill! Time and again we were told one thing – ‘most of these items have no takers and are impossible to be recycled; there is no option but to send them to the landfill’. It is sad when we realize that all the hollering around segregation is probably a farce…

Jolly Mohalla

Never ones to take “impossible” for an answer, Bhaskar and I decided to go deeper and find out what can and can’t be recycled. Our first stop was of course Jolly Mohalla, located off Cottenpet. Jolly Mohalla is like a mini world in itself, with narrow streets and even more narrow shops. Each shop has hoards of different types of plastics, metal and other items, and seemingly the most efficient and busy set of people you’ll find. Traders here collect recyclable items and store it until it is taken away from factories that recycle these. Taking pity on lost outsiders that we were, one of the traders suggested that we go to Nayandahalli where the recycling factories operate, to get a clearer picture.

Nayandahalli recycler factories

So, off we went to Nayandahalli, again looking lost in an unknown territory, when luck took its turn and one of the men recognized us from our morning’s outing to Jolly Mohalla. This man became our guide for the next hour and took us to his world of recycling. Having his own godown and factory for plastic recycling, the first shocking news was that he deals with 200 varieties of plastic(and our dwccs barely do 15), all of which are recycled. According to our guide, there is no form of plastic which can’t be taken and recycled. The matter is only that of volume. Here is a list of broad categories of plastic that he showed us. The prices keep fluctuating and the rates mentioned are as on Oct 24, 2013.

# Local Name Buying cost/kg (Rs.) Type of items
1 PP (white) 32 Hard white plastic. Typically used to pack shirts
2 PP (colour) 28 Hard coloured plastic. Typically seen in cloth stores where printed plastic covers are given with the items purchased
3 LD (white) 30 Smooth white plastic. Typically used to wrap electronic items like TV
4 LD (colour) 25 Smooth coloured plastic. Typically used to make Tarpaulins
5 HM (white) 22 Typical white plastic cover given in grocery stores
6 HM (colour) 18 Usually blue in colour – the kind they give in hardware stores
7 Phugga (white) 25 Food parcel containers, buckets, mugs, etc. Which are white in colour. The trays that come in expensive biscuit packets also come in this category and cost Rs. 28/kg
8 Phugga (colour) 19 Coloured phugga items
9 PVC 25 PVC pipes, covers used to pack blankets, soft transparent files, etc.
10 Super (a term used by DWCCs) 6 Soiled low quality plastic items
11 Coating PP 2 These are the low value plastic items, such as labels of PET bottles, chips packet, biscuit packet, etc.
12 PET Bottles 30 Mineral water, Soft drink, etc
13 Milk cover 22 Milk, curd, oil packets
14 Other Kadak items like Comb, toothbrush, syringe pipe, pen, refils, car bumper, etc 7 These items are collected here, but sent to Delhi for recycling

Other interesting tid-bits:

  • Costly leather items such as bags and chappals (Price around Rs. 1000) cannot be reused and have to be dumped. Whereas cheap leather items (Price a few hundreds) are recycled in Tannery road
  • Left over unused cloth from garment factories will fetch Rs.15-20 a kg. But used cloth has no recycle value
  • Broken glass is taken in Jolly Mohalla for about Rs. 6
  • There are takers even for Thermocole which is reused in packaging
  • Aluminium foils used for food packing fetch Rs. 40/kg and Aluminium Tins/Cans fetch Rs. 80/kg
  • Discarded steel items vary from Rs. 70/kg to Rs.7000/kg!!!

The Good news and the Bad news

Having realized that every type of plastic that is sent to landfills by the DWCC is in fact recyclable, we asked our guide if he would be willing to accept the low quality plastic from DWCCs, which are sometimes soiled and may need further segregation. Although initially hesistant, he agreed if we could provide him with volume (at least 1 ton each time). He further said that maybe he could send his lorry once a month and collect it from multiple DWCCs to make up the volume. If it is very soiled, he will give Rs.6/kg. If not, it could go up to Rs.12/kg. And by the way, there are around 100 such factories in Nayandahalli that might be willing to do the same!

This is the good news – that the waste we generate can be recycled if we got a little more organized and networked with the right people.

The bad news is that most of these factories may not have an environmental clearance from Pollution Control Board and have hazardous working conditions. So, even if we send our waste to these recyclers, we are only solving one part of the problem. Further, if we tried to go deeper into the probable futility of recycling itself, given that most plastics can only be downcycled into more monstrous, toxic versions, you’ll get the feeling of being damned whether you do it or don’t do it! It is a wicked, wicked problem that we all have created for ourselves.

Ah Ignorance – you used to be such bliss!


Some links if you wish to know more:

1. Plastics (Manufacture, Usage and Waste Management) Rules, 2001 –

2. Guidelines for recycling of plastics IS 14524:1998 –

3. Recycling Plastics: Complications & Limitations


9 thoughts on “Do you know where your dry waste ends up?

  1. Awesome work Sinu and Bhaskar!! Your posts are so refreshing. No armchair analysis – actual plunging into the field! This IS an eye opener! Best bet then seems to be to use LESS!

  2. Very informative indeed! What do you think about organizing a neighborhood recycling drive? And the proceeds go to charity.

  3. Think it’s time for me to continue my sessions with you to touch upon the supply chain and the human rights element of waste! And obviously the success stories in DWCCs that may be difficult to gauge in single visits. There are a few critical pieces missing here and the tone of the article may appear misleading, given the focus on only the negative side of the story! 😦

  4. I think the article is well intended by a middle class environmentalist but it generalises the practice and theorises an effort which is in its infancy and damaging to new initiatives in Bangalore than lending hand to better it.
    1. Understanding the recycling sector with pure cost of the material bought by a wholesaler or a recycler is only one part of the story.
    There is hierarchy of the industry and there is a hierarchy of the waste materials which this article has not considered so it is only half truth.
    The material you see in Jolly Mohalla and Nayandahalli does not come from the formal municipal waste collection system. There are about 20,000 wastepickers and more than few thousand scrap dealers in the city, who together send raw materials to recycling. The DWCC’s contribution to this currently is only a small fraction of what is sent by the informal sector.
    Wastepickers are self employed workers in the informal economy who earn their livelihood from the collection and sale of recyclable scrap from urban solid waste for recycling. They collect discarded materials that have zero value and convert it into a tradable commodity through their labour in extracting/collection, sorting, grading and carrying/transporting.
    It is estimated that in Bangalore the informal sector collects, retrieves and recycles around 600 tonnes of recyclable waste everyday saving the BBMP approximately Rs 13.5 lakh per day .
    Each wastepickers with a bag on the shoulder, peddling cycle with 500 kgs of waste actually create 22 jobs in the recycling industry how many of us can boast of creating jobs !!!!
    2. Hierarchy of waste :
    If all waste we created had recycling value then there would be no waste on the street !!!! The informal industry would have taken care of it and so there would be no need for any one of us to worry about managing waste.
    Many materials in the waste steam does not have recycle value for e.g: multi layered packaging materials, tube lights, CFL bulbs, Battery cell to name a few.
    Most of multi layered plastic is used by FMCG, which has no recycling process in place. In many DWCCs, such as the one in Jayangar, more than 3 tons of multi layered plastic ( non-commercial dry waste)is stored; if the researchers have found any takers in Jolly Mohalla and Nayandhalli, who will responsibly recycle this waste, we would like to know the contacts and would love to send it to them.
    We have more than 400 kilos battery cells sitting in the E-parisara godown that we have delivered after it was collected in DWCC. There are no takers for recycling this as well. If the researchers have found any takers in Jolly Mohalla and Nayandhalli, we would like to know the contacts and would love to send it to them.
    We have tube lights and CFL bulbs collected from DWCCs that we have dropped at e-Parisara. E Parisara, crushes it and glass and mercury are the outputs. However, there is no one to recycle it if the researchers have found any takers in Jolly Mohalla and Nayandhalli we would like to know the contacts and would love to send it to them.
    There are old clothes and mattresses that come to DWCC there is no one to recycle it if the researchers have found any takers in Jolly Mohalla and Nayandhalli we would like to know the contacts and would love to send it to them.
    The list will go one – I have just listed few things that the DWCC is diverting from landfill and looking at options to them.
    Either market forces (formal and informal) or the industry can give answers to all waste that is produced and that’s why state has intervened and DWCC is addressing materials that cannot be recycled and moving forward producers of such material should be made responsible to deal with it.
    3. DWCC is not suppose get soiled material in waste !!!! As you mentioned in your article it should be clean dry waste – whatever grade it could be “ segregation at source “ collection and transportation of dry waste separately are most essential for DWCC to be successful. That is exactly what Karnataka High Court is also saying.
    The responsibility of running a DWCC efficiently is not the responsibility of that particular DWCC operator in this case you have mentioned is a group of informal workers but that of citizens in the neighbourhood , the officers in charge , companies who manufacture or use materials that cannot be recycled and community at large.
    This blame game has to stop and we should join hands to make it work for us and for our city.

    • Dear Nalini,

      Nice of you for taking the time to send a detailed comment. Thanks for the compliment, but I am neither a researcher and certainly not an environmentalist! This blog is a simple expression of my personal experiences. That you have taken notice and responded so strongly to my personal expressions is amusing. There is neither any reason nor intent to dismiss DWCCs as we are of the belief that it might in fact be a saving grace; so you guys can relax on that front 🙂

      What I am expressing in this write-up is our personal journey in finding out what could be done to assist the DWCCs in managing the low value plastic waste that they are currently unable to find takers for. Most DWCCs, apart from the ones run by your Hasiru Dala are incurring loses and struggling to manage. None of your expert team seems to be interested in informing other DWCCs even about basics of not throwing Tetra packs away. Therefore the points you mentioned are outside the scope of what I intended to convey through this blog. However, since you have taken the trouble to write all this, let me attempt a reply to your points:

      1. Absolutely right that hardly anything that goes into Jolly is from the DWCCs, which should make all of us question where in fact the Municipal Waste is going. You are also right that speaking of only the cost is just one side of the story. Aren’t DWCCs about disposing dry waste in the best possible way, rather than building a revenue model? However, most people running dwccs are unable to look beyond the revenue model and are stuck with talks of high value and low value waste, rather than talking of appropriate disposal options. And this is also why hardly any DWCCs are accepting waste from BBMP autos, and instead chose Apartments. It may not be the fact in your case, but the expression of people in some DWCCs seem to imply that we go around asking the low and middle income homes to use more mineral water bottles, just so that the DWCCs can have a revenue model? If we are not careful, we might end up creating a new monster instead of solving the existing problem.

      As for creating jobs for waste-pickers, we need to think again about what it is that we are propagating. It will be hard for me to believe that you would want them to remain in such a profession, rather than find ways to get them out of it into something more humane. Isn’t it absolutely unfair that these guys who do not generate any of the waste, are the ones who have to suffer due to the waste you and I create? Every second waste picker and garbage collector is addicted to some or the other form of drug because being doped is the only way in which they can do their nasty job. Is this what we need to boast and be proud of?

      You are promoting an economy that thrives around blackspots and badly managed landfills which we all want to eliminate. And much of this economy is driven by illegal migrants. So can you throw light upon how you intend to sustain this economy, remove blackspots and prevent illegal migration?

      2. The blog was talking about low quality plastic waste. I haven’t yet been able to dig deeper into the other aspects and therefore have not written about it. And again, while I should feel flattered that you call my expressions as research, it is no such thing. It is a personal blog, and nothing more. 🙂

      3. If you say that dry waste sent to DWCC should not be soiled, then please enlighten us as to what is the plan (resources & manpower required) to make the quality and level of segregation that you & high court insist upon actually happen, beyond distributing pamplets, brochures and recycling habbas. We are very keen to make segregation at source happen at the earliest, so if you could share with us the plan, it will be awesome. And pls do share the high court draft with us as well, so that we ordinary folks also get to know what’s happening. Also, If you could share the Tri-party document between NGO, BBMP and Corporates about who has what responsibility in a DWCC, it will be great. We tried to look for the PIO in SWM-BBMP, but couldn’t find one and since the document is not publicly available, we had to try to make do with our little understanding.

      Lastly, if you do decide to take mine and Bhaskar’s work seriously, then let me help you understand us. We are not here to point fingers, do silly protests or make idealistic statements with zero action. We are here to work, as hard as required, and as deep as needed, with no compromise on the truth. We will not say good or bad or take sides of organizations or groups, simply to be “included”. We will say it as it is – the raw reality. If good things have to be said just to hide the reality, it will not serve any purpose. Once the DWCC starts to serve its purpose, I will certainly write a piece praising all the efforts that went into making that happen. But first, I will try and make that happen, rather than relax on hypothetical shoulds and woulds. Trying to simplify us as ‘for’ or ‘against’ something just so you can have something to talk about, will leave you confused.

      I am assuming you meant that we all need to work together to make DWCCs function as they should, and you have probably not expressed it correctly. Anyway, if I understood you right, helping DWCCs function better is exactly what we, two very ordinary individuals, are trying to do in our small little way.


      • Sinu,

        I largely accept the points in the article as well as your concerns, and I feel that most of us working in waste have the same points of view as well, especially in topics such as recyclability of low quality waste and the role that DWCCs are/should play in society at large. However, I do feel that in all earnestness that a few “hypothetical shoulds and woulds” and “idealistic statements” may have inadvertently crept in your analysis and your reply to Nalini, some of which I clarify below.

        1. DWCC’s are not perfect yet and we are trying everything in our capacity to put in checks and balances with proper audit mechanisms (financial, social etc). When we look at free-market zero-subsidy models such as DWCCs, it is too idealistic to take a leftist stance and trivialize revenue generation for sustaining operations. 40% of Bangalore’s waste is generated from bulk waste generators. These waste generators can immediately fall in line if prompt collection services are offered. What’s wrong in that? Once the DWCCs are established, such as the one at Domlur, they will definitely start venturing into independent layouts, as Domlur has already and this will be the course of evolution of every DWCC. Expecting them to incur losses at the expense of biting off more than they can chew is too idealistic a statement. Who will fill in the gap?

        2. I would be very cautious against making loose statements that have no factual backing, such as “Most DWCCs, apart from the ones run by your Hasiru Dala are incurring loses and struggling to manage.” How many DWCCs have you seen and on what basis do you conclude that?

        3. The crux of the issue here is that the post hardly shows all the dimensions of “raw reality”, as there are only few facets of the DWCC operations that are highlighted, and other facts are absolutely misrepresented. “Every second waste picker and garbage collector is addicted to some or the other form of drug because being doped is the only way in which they can do their nasty job. Is this what we need to boast and be proud of?” How many waste-pickers have you seen in the month of working in SWM? 10? 15? 20? Making such a loud judgement with no statistical backing does not seem to be very convincing in your stance to not “compromise on the truth”. Hasiru Dala has given ID cards to more than 7000 waste-pickers, and you are free to come to one of our meetings and you’ll realize that a substantial chunk of people are quite enterprising, quick witted and willing to put in the effort to raise themselves above the poverty. Making such statements just feeds into the false preconceived notions of the common masses, washing away everything that organizations such as Gilgal, Waste wise Trust, Namana Foundation, Hasiru Dala, REDS, Seva etc. work towards. Working with so many urban poor, I thought you would understand this of all people.

        4. “If you say that dry waste sent to DWCC should not be soiled, then please enlighten us as to what is the plan (resources & manpower required) to make the quality and level of segregation that you & high court insist upon actually happen, beyond distributing pamplets, brochures and recycling habbas.”
        Awareness on segregation will not happen overnight, and needs a fine balanced structure of positive reinforcement (such as relaxing the property tax component related to “garbage cess” etc. and your own activity of escorting the auto) and constitutional penalizations (such as fines etc.) and we’re working in ALL these areas. Even after all this, it takes quite a while for segregation to sink in and there is no right or wrong way to spread awareness to do this. Even in the area where you facilitated waste segregation, there is a proportionately large amount of mixed waste (contaminated with even sanitary napkins) coming in to the Gottigere DWCC. You can’t champion the cause of waste-pickers by saying that “it (is) absolutely unfair that these guys who do not generate any of the waste, are the ones who have to suffer due to the waste you and I create”, and then say that DWCCs should hold the responsibility of segregating soiled waste by employing waste-pickers. Waste-pickers work in a far more inert environment at DWCCs than on the road and we are working hard to give them benefits such as pension plans, insurance, credit access etc. and also to improve their skills such as gardening, driving etc. so that they may find employment in other areas as well. It would a wrong assumption again in this scenario to say that their lives are worse off already.

        5. Nalini has around 30 years of experience working with waste and waste-workers, and she co-founded a waste-picker union in Pune when she was 23 years old. I would address her in a slightly more respectful manner, especially given that we’re all here for the same cause! I think you meant to say the same thing too, but have probably not expressed it correctly. Nobody’s working in waste by choice. We’re all ordinary people, trying to do whatever we can in our small little ways, so we might as well get each others’ backs whenever we can.

        This will be the last reply from any of us, and you’re free to reply whatever you want. I think we’ve all spent too much time on the finer details of the communication already, but at the end of it hopefully you do realize how sensitive the matter is, especially in the current scenario. Looking forward to reading more of your experience at Konankunte, albeit with more thorough research and precise communication. Cheers! 🙂

  5. Hi Sinu
    The essence that is being derived out of all te above is that we are sitting on a half baked system and have no clue about what we are doing.. world over they are doing certain things about mixed waste and certain things about segregated waste. If you philosophically look at the whole segregation process, it is not the whole idea of value that is paramount ie value of the waste but the fact that generating too much waste itself is to be considered a pain point if you generate you segregate being the goal.. Sinu do you also realize that what is also not answered in most of the arguments is the final quantum of waste which the court wants.. assuming we have 203 DWC and assume each handles even average 2 tons a day that makes it 2000x 203 that makes it 406000 kgs .. what fraction is this of the total waste ?? is it justified to have investments to justify this quantum of waste , what is the capital cost of a DWCC … there are many questions to be asked and few answers at the moment.. the same question we asked a few ago and were shooed and booed out by civil society and we continue to ask .. so keep asking folks .. answers will come eventually .. but hopefully before it is too late..

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