Living in India, one is not surprised at the amount of waste generated by each one of us on a daily basis. We might stop now and then to consider our wasteful ways as we feel a twinge of guilt, which is soon overcome by shifting our attention to something else.
Some of us have tried segregating waste at source, only to see all our efforts go to waste (pun intended) as the municipality worker who collects household trash unceremoniously empties all your bags into one receptacle to minimise his work. Indignation might make you argue with the worker but it’s like water off a duck’s back.
That’s when you tell yourself you’re fighting a losing battle and decide to let things remain as they are. The only problem is that if we all thought along these lines, no problem would ever be resolved.
In light of our general apathy, it is heartening to learn about initiatives being taken up to fight the scourge of trash and divert waste from landfills. One of these projects is Mumbai-based Skrap, which has been working with offices and organisers of events such as music festivals and marathons to cut waste.
Being able to see for yourself where your trash ends up and what happens to it thereafter makes you want to commit to more responsible civic actions
Trial and error
The idea of Skrap was born after the massive fire at Mumbai’s Deonar dumping ground in 2016. The incident was an eye-opener for Divya Ravichandran, the founder of Skrap, as it made her take a closer look at the garbage she was generating. After a process of trial and error, she was able to make her home zero waste. Soon she was replicating her success story in friends’ homes before moving on to help reduce waste at public events.
In Bengaluru, Hasiru Dala Innovations (Kannada for ‘green brigade’) works with more than 32,000 households in 280 apartment complexes to educate and train residents, domestic help and children on the importance of segregating waste.
Its network of wastepicker-entrepreneurs collect the waste and make separate trips for different types of waste and the residents are allowed to track the process till the end. Being able to see for yourself where your trash ends up and what happens to it thereafter makes you want to commit to more responsible civic actions.
Hasiru Dala has organised 100 zero-waste events in the last year, from small weddings and birthday parties to large-scale events such as IPL matches and a religious festival in Mysuru.
Ravichandran says organisers often don’t realise how much waste is generated because the venue premises are relatively clean. Skrap goes back to the organisers with hard data and recommendations. Making an event zero-waste involves looking at every aspect of the venue and working on everything from construction materials to the food courts.
In Chennai, Kabadiwala Connect concentrates on segregating plastic waste through the use of smart bins which are fitted with in-built sensors. Of course, not everyone can afford smart bins but a beginning is being made and that in itself is praiseworthy.
It is easy to be sceptical and dismiss initiatives such as these as not being feasible. But a start has to be made somewhere and we can do our bit by encouraging those who are trying to make a difference.
Of late I have seen pictures of eco-friendly plates and cups being forwarded on various social media. Sadly, when one made inquiries about where one could order these, one learnt that production had stopped due to lack of demand. Support is vital for the success of such noble initiatives which illustrate the fact that we can make a difference. In the words of Andy Warhol, “They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
—Vanaja Rao is a freelance writer based in Hyderabad, India.