ENVIS Centre, Ministry of Environment & Forest, Govt. of India

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No recycling, so landfills are choking (April)

The capital is drowning in its own filth and the crisis is deepening. Look around you everywhere and you will find overflowing dhalaos and garbage piling up by the roadside. People just hold their nose and walk past. Some even lob bags of household refuse at the dumps or even by the roadside on the sly, not willing to pay even the meagre amount that the garbage collector gets.


The 8,500 tonnes of solid waste generated daily in the city is likely to double by 2020 and our overflowing landfills can't take it anymore. The controversy around burning of garbage is still simmering and waste-to-energy plants, like the one in Okhla, have run into fierce opposition because of their air pollution potential and the general 'Not in my backyard' stance. So where will all the waste go? Experts say Delhi hasn't realized even a fraction of its recycling potential which can curtail waste and the cost of managing it. Waste disposal is becoming unmanageable and unaffordable. Sejal (13) and her brother, Prawesh (17), who stay in RK Puram, got their parents to segregate waste after they learnt in school about the vast opportunities of reusing binned waste.


They used a separate waste bag for dry waste. But the teens, probably the only ones in their colony to sort the waste, are so disillusioned that they are thinking of reverting to a single bin. The bags of waste handed to the private contractor land up in a dhalao near the house and raise a stink. The mixed waste is carried to landfills. "Why should we segregate it if it's going to be lumped together? We are doing this to reduce the amount of waste sent to the landfill. But that doesn't seem to be happening," says Prawesh. Residents of the area had to send several complaints before the mound of waste was cleared. When it comes to waste disposal, Saket is worse off. Residents are clueless where the colony waste is going. "The pick-up van comes every morning but we don't know where it deposits the waste," says homemaker Sabita Agarwal. Actually it goes nowhere- it just rots in a dump half a kilometre away. Shah Alam (63) sifts through Saket's dhalaos for newspapers, plastic packets and bottles. His hands are soiled. "I wish they would segregate wet and dry waste.


People don't understand these things can be reused by the poor," he says. Alam and his family have lived off waste for 30 years now and they have seen it rise exponentially. "The population is increasing and so is waste," adds Alam, who earns Re 1 for every kilogram of raddi and Rs 4 for every kg of paper of better quality. In all, he manages about Rs 90 a day. Experts say our system favours waste disposal, not recycling. "There is no segregation at source as residents don't have any incentive and nor is recycling being encouraged.


They know it will all be sent to landfills," says Ravi Agarwal who specializes in urban waste management. Even so, Delhi's informal sector collects daily about 1,088 tonnes of recyclables, taking considerable load off the corporation. Recycling these items is saving the corporations about Rs 795 million per year as transportation and collection costs, according to a Columbia University study of 2012. Anjor Bhaskar, a scholar with Tata Institute of Social Sciences who is researching on the potential of decentralized waste management, has found the current model of landfilling extremely polluting and expensive. His analysis shows that transporting a tonne of solid waste costs Rs 67 and releases about 2kg of CO2 on average. He has also found that the corporations spend over 50% of their budget on transportation alone. Less than 5% of the waste is being recyc


led, Agarwal says. More than 50% of municipal waste in Delhi is compostable but less than 5% is being composted. According to Manish Gupta, South Corporation commissioner, Delhi cannot do away with dhalaos. "These dumps are an integral part of the waste management system here. Waste is collected and cleared once a day but the flow continues, so dhalaos always seem filled," he says. He adds that a new tender has been invited. The corporation has proposed separate chains of waste management for four kinds of waste-dry, sludge, construction, and demolition waste and green waste like dry leaves.




Times of India, Delhi, Tuesday 22nd April 2014