Recently, Neel Metal Fanalca began a process of ostensible source-segregation of waste in its areas of operation in Chennai. I have had the benefit of examining the whole thing personally, in Kodambakkam.
Apparently under pressure to show source segregation of waste, NMF issued polythene bags to residents for storage of recyclable waste. The organic waste is to be handed over to the personnel of NMF each morning and evening, during one-hour window periods. The waste collector attracts the attention of residents by blowing a whistle repeatedly. The plan is farcical in the way it is implemented, though.
1. There is no downstream system to manage the waste. The organic waste is not composted as a measure of ‘disposal’, as required by the Chennai Corporation’s contract with NMF, but is simply shifted to the dumping ground.
2. No plan exists for recyclable waste. I found, for instance, that NMF personnel simply sell the waste to local ‘raddi’ shops in the vicinity, simply displacing the waste from their own bin to the street in front of the waste shop.
3. Waste in the form of CFL and tubelights (containing small amounts of mercury), batteries, other household chemicals are being dumped along with the organic waste.
In addition, the NMF crews also want the residents to put up their own waste bins in their respective apartment blocks or houses. This is a difficult proposal to implement, even if it was sound in other respects, which it is not for the reasons stated in 1 to 3 above.
Disappointingly, Exnora International, which launched citizen-led initiatives in the 1980s to compost waste, is now a partner in the NMF scheme. This may be good in principle, but Exnora has not been given any solid role in deciding the waste management plan. What is more, EI is also relegating sustainable waste management to the back-burner by going along with the NMF model.
Time for the citizenry to ask the Chennai Corporation some searching questions, rather than treat waste as someone else’s problem.