Why segregation at source is failing

“After doing segregation for hours, I feel awkward with myself. I find it difficult to even eat with my own hands.”

“Forget soap, they don’t even provide us water to wash our hands, after making us do segregation”

“When the garbage comes from PGs and houses where bachelors live, most of the times it is very old and the stink is intolerable. We are asked to segregate it, as we are simply not allowed to get any mixed waste to the transfer points.”

“Most of the mixed waste packets come with used sanitary napkins. We hate to touch it. When we told this to the Health Inspector she asked us to either segregate or quit the job. I want to quit as well, but have not got my salary for 3 months. If I quit now, I will never get it. “

“When they make us put our hands into garbage, we curse everybody from Supervisor to the Commissioner.”

– As told to our team members by Pourakarmikas


“We have been given strict instructions to segregate as wet and dry. But when we made our PKs segregate and took the dry waste to the DWCC, they took only 50% of it. Rest they simply rejected and asked us to take it back. What is the point of segregation then?”

” When we took our wet waste to AD plant here, they told us that their plant can’t process flowers, thread that is tied to it, banana leaves, banana stem, even a small piece of coconut shell and cabbage leaves, they say they can’t crush anything fibrous. They asked us to get cooked food, how can we segregate to that extent? We had a bad fight with the AD plant operator and since last 2 months we don’t send any wet waste to the AD plant.”

“When the dump site shuts down for days, we get into deep trouble. Even when the dump site is shut down for 3 days, on the 4th day they ask us to send only one day’s garbage. What are we supposed to do with the 3 days piled up garbage?”

“The AD plant seems to prefer the food that we eat, rather than the waste we generate!”

– As told to our team members by Area Supervisors


“We are finding it extremely difficult to get the PKs to segregate. There are places in my ward where they have even protested against it.”

“Almost no resident is segregating, so we are forced to get the PKs to segregate. We have tried communicating this to our higher officials, they simply term it as our inefficiency.”

– As told to our team members by Health Inspectors


Losing Perspective

If we ever bothered to actually listen to those who have had to bear the brunt of our unrealistic demands, we might begin to wonder where we lost perspective. That is, if we cared enough to listen.

In the last two months, there has been a sudden enforcement of segregation at source across wards in Bangalore. Given that making residents segregate has largely failed (with the exception of a small number of apartments), the Pourakarmikas are being forced to segregate. With KCDC accepting only wet waste from markets and nearby wards, and Mavallipura accepting only around 10 compactors (around 80 tons) full of wet waste, you might actually wonder where the segregated waste will even end up if all of us do segregate. But that’s where I lose perspective – the segregation story has less to do with managing waste and more to do with satisfying the ego of the so-called experts who’ve made it their identity.

If segregation at source is indeed a priority for managing Banaglore’s waste, our team will get hands on and make it happen in the least time possible. But, never by forcing Pourakarmikas to dig into our garbage.

Fix collection before harping on segregation

With the given collection system, segregation at source will mostly fail. A common complaint of residents is that even if they do segregate their waste, the Pourakarmikas(PK) mixes it while collecting, making the whole exercise pointless. It is not the PK who has to be blamed here.

Across 33 wards where our team has gathered collection information, not a single ward has all the vehicles & resources on ground mentioned in the tender. A minimum of 40% resources is eaten up along the way as official bribe. There are wards where we have seen only 2 autos in use, where the tender would have mentioned 10. The tender itself is heavily underquoted. The number of PKs have reduced drastically from previous years. Where we need more than 100 PKs, we have less than 40. Where we need more than 30 autos, we have barely 10. It is no wonder then, that door-to-door collection is less than 30% across wards. We have met Health Inspectors who have actually requested us not to eliminate litter-spots because they do not have enough resources to collect from door-to-door!

How then, do we expect the PKs to be able to collect segregated waste separately?

What it takes to fix collection

Fixing our collection system at this point seems like a herculean task. The major problems with the current collection system is:

  • We do not account for cleaning of litterspots. This is inspite the fact that Bangalore has more than 10,000 litter spots and each ward has an average of 50 litterspots. Garbage from these litterspots account for around 40% of waste collected.
  • The autos engaged in door-to-door collection are expected to clear litterspots during the time allocated for door-to-door collection. This seriously affects the collection.
  • How can we make segregation at source happen, if the same auto collects from litter-spots as well as from door-to-door?
  • The same Door-to-Door auto has to also collect from pushcarts engaged in street sweeping, failing which, the pushcarts simply dump and create litter-spots.
  • Compactors break down at least once or twice every week, severely affecting collection. There is no backup vehicles and no servicing schedule for any of the vehicles.

In spite of these problems, we can still attempt to set a few things right, if we are willing to get our basics right. Before any tender, the following aspects must be taken into account

For collection:

  • Quantify the waste generated in each ward for different streams, i.e. residential door-to-door collection, street sweeping, litter-spots and commercial waste.
  • Allocate resources separately for each stream based on the quantification
  • Calculate vehicles for door-to-door collection, keeping segregation in mind. To collect wet and dry waste on the same day, we will either need larger capacity vehicles or double the number of vehicles.
  • Schedule collection – if there is no predictability in collection, it will be very difficult to get residents to hand over waste or to segregate
  • Account for back-up resources and frequent servicing of vehicles, so that collection does not stop for any reason

For cleaning:

  • Account for all the cleaning activity in a ward – litterspots, vacant plots, parks, etc.
  • Garbage collected from cleaning cannot be segregated at source. Therefore, it is best to collect it separately and dispose it separately

The points mentioned above are only keeping collection in mind. There is a bigger mess when it comes to end disposal and as for transfer mechanisms, it is non-existent in Bangalore. We will cover these in the upcoming blogs.

Lets remember that making Pourakarmikas put their hand into garbage and segregate on our behalf is a violation of human right to health, safety and dignity. It is no different from manual scavenging.

Watch this video if you really want to know how “segregation at source” is happening in Bangalore.

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