Is 100% Source Segregation
of Solid Waste Possible:
Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu Shows the Way
a mission to effectively manage different kinds of waste generated in
the country, the Indian government has released new and amended rules to
manage solid, plastic, hazardous, electronic and biomedical wastes. The
new rules and guidelines for their implementation were issued in 2016 by
the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, with an aim to
standardise waste management practices in the country. The
implementation of these rules would also significantly contribute to
betterment in public and environmental health in the country.
At present, most Indian cities dump the entire quantum of their
municipal solid waste into unscientific dump sites, whilst only
partially separating recyclable material through an unorganised network
of ragpickers and informal recyclers. Such rudimentary disposal
contributes to contamination of land by leaking leachates into the
ground, contamination of air by releasing methane into the air leading
to self-ignition of the waste piles and endangering public health.
Typically, a remarkable portion of the waste is organic and
biodegradable, implying that an efficacious segregation mechanism can
aid production of quality compost for landscaping and agriculture.
The need of the hour is to curtail our waste generation by recycling to
full potential and scientifically managing the remaining waste stream.
In this regard, many successful practices have sprung up at the local or
municipal level. These include extensive public participation in
addition to provision of the requisite infrastructure and coordination
by the managing body.
Tirunelveli, a small city in the state of Tamil Nadu has been announced
as the first to have achieved 100% source segregation of municipal solid
waste. The city has a population of 4.8 lakhs and has been actively
striving to execute the Solid Waste Management Rules 2016.
The local municipality worked diligently to achieve the target by aptly
designing awareness generation programmes, effective collection
mechanisms and proper treatment facilities. The initiative was launched
in October 2016 and mandates collection of well segregated biodegradable
waste from all establishments and households in the city. Regular
campaigns and drives were organised to promote segregation of waste, in
addition to involving religious leaders and local NGOs for mobilising
the initiative in the public sphere. The programme gained momentum
through media campaigns on local radio and television.
The organic biodegradable waste is collected by the municipality on a
daily basis while plastic waste is collected only once a week on
Wednesdays. To promote ownership and compliance, the sanitation workers
of the municipality visited individual households and procured
undertakings from the residents. The two-bin system was also put into
place by distributing free bins to all households. The Commissioner also
wrote personal letters to each to add value to the campaign. The
households are charged Rs. 10 to support the practice and have, over the
last 6 months, been hugely supportive. On Wednesdays, when the
non-biodegradable waste is to be collected, all the municipality staff
is deployed on outdoor duty wherein they personally go and supervise the
collection tour across the municipality's work area.
This sustainable initiative comes at the time when all Indian cities
struggle to scientifically manage their municipal waste. The challenge
is even more critical in metropolitan cities with unplanned expansion,
booming population and modernised lifestyles that add significant
amounts of plastics and other synthetic materials into the waste stream.
Collective efforts from the local bodies and the citizens will go a long
way in improving the waste management scenario in the country. ■
ENVIS Centre on Management of Plastic, Polymer Wastes and Biopolymers (icpeenvis.nic.in/index1.aspx?lid=1445&linkid=771&langid=1&mid=4)
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