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…
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 – http://envfor.nic.in/sites/default/files/Plasticenglish04.02.2011.pdf
2. Guidelines for recycling of plastics IS 14524:1998 –https://law.resource.org/pub/in/bis/S11/is.14534.1998.pdf
3. Recycling Plastics: Complications & Limitations – http://www.eurekarecycling.org/imageupload/file/Plastics_Fact_Sheet-2012.pdf