Garbage segregation must for Guwahati’s cleanliness

The Guwahati Municipal Corporation took a laudable step forward when it introduced garbage collection vans with separate colour-coded compartments for the collection of solid wastes segregated as dry or wet wastes.
Garbage segregation must for Guwahati’s cleanliness

The Guwahati Municipal Corporation took a laudable step forward when it introduced garbage collection vans with separate colour-coded compartments for the collection of solid wastes segregated as dry or wet wastes. Ironically, the capital city has yet to learn how to make use of these vans, and non-segregated waste is still finding its way to dumpsites at Boragaon. GMC officials conducting inspections of residential areas and drains and holding discussions with residents about cleanliness and waste collection can focus on making waste segregation at source a behavioural practice. Once the residents start segregating waste generated at their households, they will also ensure that the garbage van that comes to their doorsteps also collects and transports it in segregated form. The prevailing practice is to use a single bin to store both dry and wet waste, deposit the garbage bag, and put it in any compartment of the garbage collection van. Such practices among residents can be attributed to the existence of the system of collecting garbage door-to-door in pull carts without any segregated compartment. In most localities, both the newly introduced vans with separate compartments and the old pull carts are seen deployed to collect waste door-to-door and pick up roadside garbage. The GMC authorities were not interested in ensuring segregated collection as the city lacks the required waste processing capacity. The city generates 550 tonnes of solid waste daily, but only 7.5 tonnes of it is processed daily, and the rest gets accumulated at the dumpsite. The city also generates 120 tonnes of plastic waste every day. The circulation of prohibited single-use plastic bags continues. The use of single-use polythene has reached almost the same level as prior to the enforcement of the ban, as a majority of city residents never learned to take their own reusable, eco-friendly carry bags while going shopping and purchasing fruits, vegetables, and grocery items. The polythene bags are either used to dump household garbage or are simply thrown into open drains, clogging them. This is a behavioural problem that has no other solution except building awareness among the residents about the danger of rising plastic pollution on the planet Earth. The enforcement of the ban on single-use plastic during the initial days was only on retail sellers, even though action against its violation equally applied to end users, the consumers. The enforcement of the ban on the usage of single-use plastic can help bring back the menace of plastic pollution into the daily discourse of city residents and motivate them to voluntarily give up the bad habit and start using alternatives. The city depending on waste pickers to address the problem of plastic waste is unsustainable as it generates plastic waste on an enormous scale, as compared to the capacity of the waste pickers. Segregating dry or wet wastes is only a baby step, as the city has to draw up a clear roadmap for raising the cleanliness level to that of Indore, which has bagged the cleanest city rank for the seventh consecutive term since 2017. Indore has achieved it through the segregation and collection of household and commercial garbage at source into six different types: wet, paper, plastic, domestic hazardous waste like chemicals, sanitary waste like diapers and cotton swabs, and electronic waste like damaged computers, handsets, televisions, etc. The availability of waste in different types attracted the attention of investors in sectors like waste to energy, electronic waste recycling, etc., and Indore Municipal Corporation started generating huge revenue by selling waste and utilising the revenue to keep the city clean. Till 2014, Indore ranked 149th in the clean city index, which should convince the GMC authorities and city residents that Guwahati too can scale up its ranking to become the cleanest city in the country. A change can be expected only when people shoulder the responsibility by segregating garbage at their houses or commercial establishments and extend a helping hand to the GMC authorities to make judicious use of the garbage vans. Until customised vans with segregated compartments are available in every locality, existing pull carts can be modified simply by using a wooden separator for the collection of dry and wet wastes separately. The availability of segregated wastes will create an ecosystem for expediting the projects of municipal solid waste processing facilities, including a 150-tonne per day capacity compost cum Refuse Derived Fuel (fuel produced from non-biodegradable wastes). Such changes cannot be expected through ritualistic cleanliness drives or the occasional interaction by GMC officials with residents and owners of commercial establishments. It must be a frequent exercise at regular intervals so that residents too can play an active role in waste segregation and waste collection processes and not ignore it as the responsibility of only the GMC authorities. Elected representatives need to take a round in their respective wards to push the collaborative efforts of the GMC and residents to the next level.

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