My Waste, My Responsibility

Waste is any substance which is discarded after primary use or is worthless, defective or of no use.

Waste Scenario in India

India, being the second largest populated country in the world after China, with more than 1.27 billion people, contributes to 17.6% of the world’s total population. (Official Population Clock) Annually, 62 million tonnes of garbage is generated by 377 million people living in urban India. (Report of the Task Force on Waste to Energy, Planning Commission, 2014) Our country has become the third-largest garbage generator in the world.

Municipal waste and certain industrial wastes have significant impact on the health of the environment and the people. (Misra et al. 2004) Groundwater quality can be adversely affected because of leachate percolation. Air pollution is caused by emission of greenhouse gases when waste is burnt.

The good news is that the Solid Waste Management Rules of 2016 have defined the role of the citizens for proper segregation and management of waste.

Development Alternatives’ Strategy for Behaviour Change

Behaviour change does not happen overnight. At Development Alternatives, we follow the 4 A’s approach because we believe that an individual usually moves through certain stages before converting a belief into action. The approach is – Assessment, Awareness, Action and Advocacy.

Delhi offers a living statement on the waste management quagmire that accompanies a culture of consumerism spreading fast across India. It is estimated that, in the business-as-usual scenario, by 2020, the capital will need an additional 28 sq. km area, more than the entire spread of Lutyen’s Bungalow Zone, to dump its daily garbage.

An initiative undertaken in Saraswati Vihar, a North-West Delhi colony, by the Behaviour Change Communications team at Development Alternatives has shown how composting kitchen waste at the household level can help address the solid waste problem. This initiative has shown how families and communities can handle their waste themselves by separating the organic waste, composting it and producing manure that can be used in their own kitchen gardens. In the process, the initiative has provided the families an opportunity to begin mending their own small ecologies.

Engagement with the Community

About 1,800 kgs of compost has been generated till now. Today, the residents of this highly urbanised and affluent colony boast of how they produce organic vegetables on their terrace gardens. These are among India’s richest 10 per cent people who feel that with this waste composting solution, they are improving their environment and contributing to making their city a more liveble place.

The Process

Development Alternatives brought the simple technology of Earthcare Designs, a Nashik-based social enterprise that, makes it possible to turn waste into manure. The contraption from Earthcare Designs comes in the form of a simple twin-plastic container that together with a bacterial culture, ensures an odourless process that also excludes pests. The microbial culture, introduced to the residents as Amrit powder sets in an aerobic process of composting. This means that the kitchen waste does not produce any methane, a much-faulted greenhouse gas. The residents of Saraswati Vihar might not be aware of it, but they have, in their own small way, reduced their carbon-footprint.

Going Forward

The Director of the Department of Environment of the Government of Delhi - Mr. Anil Kumar lauds the initiative from Development Alternatives, and emphasises that the project should also be seen in the context of a new set of rules, the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016. The Solid Waste Management Rules have mandated source segregation of waste in order to channelise the waste to wealth by recovery, reuse and recycle. Waste generators would now have to segregate waste into three streams - Biodegradables, Dry (plastic, paper, metal, wood, etc.) and Domestic Hazardous Waste (diapers, napkins, mosquito repellants, cleaning agents etc.) - before handing it over to the collector. We, at Development Alternatives, would like to see this pilot project scale up to cover every home in the city.

Case Study – How can an individual create wealth from his/her kitchen waste?

Ms. Rekha Wadhwa, a resident of E- block Saraswati Vihar, Pitampura, is a home maker with a passion for gardening. She has a beautiful terrace garden that speaks of her interest in gardening. She says, “We planned a terrace garden when we were building our house. And today, we are growing fruits and vegetables for our family. It’s been two years that I have been grafting in my own house and experimenting to create new varieties of flowers and plants.”

When the Development Alternatives team shared the concept of kitchen waste recycling with various households in Saraswati Vihar, she was the first amongst the 40 households to grab the opportunity to get trained on converting kitchen waste into compost, and to install the composter at her home.

Rekha says, “The cost of compost that I buy from the market is quite high. Moreover, it has chemical fertilisers in it. But having installed the composter at my home, it serves multiple purposes. The waste produced at our home is converted into compost and also reduces the waste management problem faced by our community.

All the cooked and uncooked food waste, including dairy products, vegetable and fruit peels, leftover food and garden trimmings, gets converted into nutritious compost. The compost from the wet waste gets ready within two months. My plants are a happy lot getting the nutritious compost. What makes this a smooth process is that it is absolutely easy to maintain the composter. The composting bins are light, pest-free, noiseless and rat proof.”

She further adds, “I would like to express my gratitude to Development Alternatives for initiating this pilot with our RWA, and for promoting kitchen waste recycling. I will motivate more residents of our society to start gardening and reuse waste as a productive resource.”

Jyoti Shresth


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