What will we do with all the garbage produced is the biggest question on majority of the apartment residents these days. BBMP’s ambiguous statements on the issue is not making it any simpler.
While apartment residents are miffed about this treatment meted out to them, they cite practical reasons as to why asking apartment complexes to handle their own waste is not such a good idea.
Though, the BBMP website says the waste has to be segregated into six categories, some residents complain that the pourakarmikas simply dump them into just wet and dry categories while collecting. In the core city areas, BBMP collects only two categories – wet and dry. Salma K Fahim, Additional Commissioner, Solid Waste Management Cell, also confirms this. But she adds that they do insist on segregating biowaste from wet waste.
However, a different unwritten rule is at play when it comes to large apartments. Residents say that the contractors are selective about what they pick up. The contractors, apparently refuse to collect thermocol, tubelights, garden waste or construction debris. What do the residents do with these? Should residents find a landfill on their own to dump these?
Residents feel BBMP is in the best position to segregate the dry waste further and send it directly to the agencies that will treat it, recycle it or send it to landfill.
The apartments are having trouble identifying agencies that will actually handle the different types of wastes. The residents end up talking to six different private agencies or non-governmental organisations and many of these agencies charge to collect the waste.
Many apartment complexes, especially in the outer fringes of the city, have long given up depending on BBMP. Contractors, mostly private or those connected to the BBMP contractors, have always charged to collect the waste, even though it was supposed to be collected free by BBMP contractors. Apartment RWAs now find even private contractors deteriorating in services. Some vendors are not able to scale up to cope with increasing requirements for their services and some have even hiked up their rates.
Goel in a news report was quoted saying "There is a shortage of space to dump garbage…The expenditure for establishing a composting unit or methane gas plant can be recovered in just two years. Although contractors will collect waste from apartments, if residents make their own arrangements it will help all of us."
How practical is it to set up a biogas plant in the apartment complexes?
Mainak Chakraborty, Founder-Director, Green Power systems says, setting up of a biogas plant in an apartment complex is not very complicated. He says, "biogas produced can be used for cooking whereas the power generated from 100 kgs of waste can be used to light up nearly 50 light bulbs through the night." And it takes only "150 square foot space with no civil work needed," he adds.
But what happens in case it is not feasible to use methane produced? "We will bottle it and sell it" says Chakraborty. In which case, they will waive the maintenance fee. In case of electricity generated, he says, rewiring the existing electrical system is a little tricky and it is better to work with new buildings. Chakraborty feels it is better to set up a biogas plants in a park, where the segregated waste comes from the community, in the neighbourhood and the power generated can be used to light up public parks and roads and the manure can go into the very same park.
This would essentially mean decentralisation of the existing collection mechanism. Instead of all the garbage going to one large landfill outside the city, it will stay in the neighbourhood. And Chakraborty is hopeful that since the initiative would be from the community itself, it might actually work.
But this is just a hopeful idea at this stage. There are practical issues in setting up a community based biogas plant, which neither residents nor the BBMP have solutions for at this point of time.
The other option is to set up Organic Waste Composter (OWC) inside the apartment complexes. Most of the apartments have very limited space to house an OWC. Shilpi Sahu, a resident of Purva Sunshine on Sarjapur road says "We don’t even have space for visitor’s car parking within the complex. We even tried to see if we can set it up in the basement or terrace. But basement houses STP and Water treatment Plant (WTP) and it is not safe place for methane." She adds that while access to their terrace is an issue, the bigger concern is the leachate from the composting that is corrosive.
And the apartments that do have an OWC are having to spend a lot of money on running and maintaining the same.
The other question, residents are trying to find answers to, is, even if the composting units are doable, what happens to the compost produced in bulk quantities? Who will buy them? Shouldn’t BBMP identify these collection organisations?⊕