Caring for the environment in a socially conscious way

After almost three months of being launched, the “Dry Waste Management Initiative” project is a huge sucess members of the The Brigade Millennium Cassia Apartment Owners Association say. The project is designed on a holistic perspective, along all the dimensions of reduce, reuse and recycle. In January 2010, the residents of the apartment implemented the project.

The Cassia block of the Brigade Millennium complex in South Bangalore’s JP Nagar 7th Phase is a typical community of urban dwellers.  With 195 apartments, spread over 15 floors, this residential building has both, a significant demand on resources as well as a significant footprint on the environment.

Prior to 2010, waste management in Cassia was like most other apartment buildings in the city – residents or domestic help would dump garbage bags down the chute, and several times a week, the garbage truck would come by to cart the consolidated waste away.

Children of Cassia Apartment performing a skit to launch the waste management progam. Pic: Ganesh Chandar.

Recyclables (paper, plastic, glass, metal) are collected in drums, placed on each floor, and periodically cleared up by an NGO, Samarthan Trust for the disable which uses this to generate income for their charitable activities. Apart from  the social contributions the load on the original waste management is much less and an unexpected side benefit is that the increase in the overall “waste-consciousness” among residents.

163 kgs of waste was collected in a period of four weeks according to a report by Samarthan. However, Swaroopa B, a member of the managing committee, in charge of housekeeping and the person who drove this program from conceptualisation to execution says, “this is only approximately 33% of the dry waste that can be collected (based on general standards of waste generation by urban households).  We have to continue educating and reaching out to both residents and domestic help, on an ongoing basis, to bring that figure up to 90 or even 100 per cent".

This program has several unique features, described below.

Segregation at source

Residents segregate unwanted material in their apartments into four categories: (a) Reusables (b) Recyclables (c) Hazardous Waste (d) Organic Waste.  Reusables (old clothes, utensils, etc.) are taken to a separate storage area (there is a dedicated room on the Ground Floor) and donated to the NGO with which the Association has tied up.

Pic: Swaroopa B.

Recyclables (paper, plastic, glass, metal) are collected in drums, placed on each floor, and periodically cleared up by the NGO which uses this to generate income for their charitable activities.  Incidentally, the drums used to collect recyclables are themselves reused – just another fact that brings out the comprehensiveness of the whole program.

Hazardous waste (used batteries, light bulbs, fluorescent tubes, CDs and so on) is collected centrally at the building reception and collected periodically by the NGO for safe and proper disposal.  Finally, organic waste is routed through the garbage chute to the original garbage collection method.  There is a plan, though, in the near future of composting this to create the building’s own supply of manure for the garden.

Education and proliferation

The Association realised right in the beginning that designing a good process is useless, if it’s not socialised properly with all stakeholders.  Here’s where they struck upon the innovative idea of using the building’s children as a key element in popularising this initiative.

Swaroopa says, “Children not only have a high level of enthusiasm – very often infectious – but have a huge interest in this as they are the primary stakeholders of any initiative designed to save the environment.  That’s why we came up with the tagline ‘Save the Environment for our Children’ and used the kids to spread the message throughout the Residents and the Domestic Help”.

The children staged a street play to launch the program and spread the word among the Residents and came forward to take responsibility of their own homes waste management practices. While children played a key role in educating residents, the program would not have succeeded without the active understanding and participation of the domestic help.

Swaroopa conducted several education sessions, targeted exclusively for the domestic help.  They would gather on the terrace and sip their soft drinks while watching a presentation on caring for the Environment on a 32” LCD TV and listening to the practical measures involved, in Kannada. “What was interesting was that, even though we targeted these sessions at the domestic help, we had some residents joining in as well, who were keen to understand what this new initiative was all about”, she adds.

The outcome of the program is apparent in a different way, as well.  Apart from the social contributions through the NGO, the load on the original waste management is much less and an unexpected side benefit is that the increase in the overall “waste-consciousness” has led to much neater and cleaner Janitor and Garbage Rooms.

What’s next?  Swaroopa shares some information on future plans.  “Our community always has been and will be environmentally sensitive.  Among the programs we’re implementing in the near future, there are initiatives for Rainwater Harvesting – not just for statutory compliance, but to actually reduce our consumption of BWSSB water; Composting of Organic Waste; Alternate Lighting in common areas to reduce our carbon footprint and many more”.  “We’ll be sure to share our successes, as and when they come”, she adds with a smile, “Keep watching out for Cassia in the news or go to our website”.⊕

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