Kolkata waste

I was very happy to hear that a student from Kolkata began segregating her waste at home. She’s gung ho, but then she realised that the people who pick up the waste from her house mix it all up again. They don’t have any municipal system for picking up segregated waste at the curb. That’s true in Bangalore, too–at least where I live. I had to try to figure out where to take the recycling. A bit of searching on Google showed me exactly where to go–all the options–and how to do it. Plus there are places like the Daily Dump (now celebrating its 10 year anniversary with a week full of interesting workshops and activities) that are ready and willing to help you. But in Kolkata it doesn’t seem like that’s the case.

In any Indian city, from what I’ve learned thus far, there is the age old scrap dealer sector. There many people will buy your “trash”: paper, plastic, glass, and metal. In theory, one should be able to contact your municipality and they will send you to the places in your area. But the solid waste management section of the Kolkata municipality doesn’t even mention recycling (it seems like they may be trying to move in a different direction, however).  And according to a fairly recent study, it seems that waste is quite a huge problem in Kolkata:

According to the study conducted by South Asian Forum for Environment (SAFE), 37% of the 5,372-tonne of urban municipal solid waste (MSW) that Kolkata generates daily is compostable. “A third of the MSW is organic matter. A further 19%, or nearly a fifth of the waste, consists of recyclable materials. Yet, only a fraction is either turned into compost or recycled,” said SAFE chair Dipayan Dey who led the study that was done over 100 weeks spanning 2010 and 2012.

The waste mostly goes to the Dhapa dump (see photographs here), which is around 100 feet high!

So what to do?

  1. Continue to segregate your waste! Learn which types of waste you generate the most of. Which of those items can you reduce–especially those items that scrap dealers may not buy and that would definitely go to the Dhapa dump!).
  2. Separate your organic and inorganic waste. Make or buy a compost bin to generate nice soil from your organic waste (which plenty of home gardeners and farmers are always willing to take off your hands–or better yet: start a home garden if you don’t have one already!).
  3. Find scrap dealers in your area. Just take a walk around your neighborhood. Ask around. There are likely people who even come around from house to house asking for scraps. Often they will pay you for this, too!
  4. Consume less! Reduce your waste!
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