Understanding how to segregate waste

What do you mean by waste segregation?

Waste segregation basically means keeping wet and dry wastes separately, so that dry can be recycled and wet waste can be composted.

Why should I do it?

  1. So that it reduces waste that reaches landfills and reduces pollution to air and water
  2. So that different processes- composting, recycling, incineration can be applied to different kinds of waste

How do I practice waste management at home?

  1. Keep separate containers for dry and wet waste in the kitchen
  2. Keep two bags for dry waste collection- paper and plastic , for the rest of the household waste
  3. Keep plastic from the kitchen clean and dry and drop into the dry waste bin. Keep glass /plastic containers rinsed of food matter
  4. Send wet waste out of the home daily. Store and send dry waste out of the home , once a week.
  5. Keep a paper bag for throwing the sanitary waste

What is the first few steps to initiating waste management in the apartment complex?

  1. Form a group of like-minded people
  2. Explain waste segregation to your family / neighbours in your apartment building.
  3. Get the staff in the apartment building to also understand
  4. Get separate storage drums for storing the dry waste and wet waste.
  5. Have the dry waste picked up by the Dry waste collection centre or your local scrap dealer


What is Dry Waste?

Paper, plastics, metal, glass, rubber, thermocol, Styrofoam, fabric, leather, rexine, wood – anything that can be kept for an extended period without decomposing.

Will dry waste smell if I store it for a week?

Not if it is clean and dry. Make sure that plastic sachets of milk, curds, oil, idli batter, any food item, are cleaned of all their contents and dried before being put in the dry waste bag. Then they will not stink.

Will I have problems with cockroaches, rats or flies?

Only if any food residue or organic matter is present in the dry waste. Clean dry waste will not attract any vermin.

How do I store pizza and cake boxes?

Clean the pizza or cake boxes of all food residue – with a wet kitchen cloth, or rinse them quickly in water and let them dry out before putting them in the dry waste container.

How do I store pickle, sauce bottles?

Sauce bottles should be rinsed thoroughly with water. Pickle bottles can be cleaned with soap and water, as they contain oil. Basically, no food residue must be left in the bottles. Clean them as you would to reuse them. (You can use wipe with a newspaper piece to remove the oil)

What do I do with milk packets, dosa packets, and yoghurt containers?

Clean them thoroughly. Open out the milk, yoghurt and dosa batter packets completely at one end, and wash out all the residue (hot water helps clean milk packets better). They can be put to wash with the dishes in the sink, then dried on a line, and put into the dry waste bag.

If I order take away from a local darshini- do I have to rinse the plastics bags/containers?

Oh yes. Any plastic containing any food has to be rinsed, or washed with soap and water if required, and dried before being put into the dry waste bag.

Should I rinse my juice containers/ tetra packs?

Yes, otherwise ants will be attracted to the sugar in the juice.

Will my biscuit/bread packet attract ants? How do I store them?

Make sure all the bread / biscuit crumbs are shaken out of the packet, so they do not attract ants. If the biscuits are too oily, the packet may need to be washed with soap and water.

What do I do with old clothes/ shoes/ handbags/belts/toys?

If they are still in usable condition, they should be given to some organisation that collects them. If they are totally unusable, or very damaged, they are still categorised as dry waste.
If clothes are soiled with body fluids, they become sanitary waste. If they are soiled with paint, or any chemicals, they are HHW (household hazardous waste).

What do I do with old bed linen/ mattress/ pillows etc?

Same as above.

What do I do with my old furniture/ broken glass table?

Old furniture can be recycled, if not, along with broken glass it can disposed of as debris or rubbish (inerts).

What do I do with old crockery / non-stick pans etc?

If they are not broken, they are recyclable dry waste. If broken, debris or rubbish (inerts).

What do I do with my old taps/ broken sanitary ware?

Old taps – recyclable dry waste. Broken sanitary ware – debris or rubbish (inerts).

What do I do with my old brooms/ floor cleaning cloths/ dry mops/ bathroom cleaning brush?

If it is clean and dry, plastic portions can be recycled and the rest can be considered as sanitary waste. Natural

What is the best method of storing dry waste?

Store it in a bag in the utility area after cleaning and drying till it is picked up.

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What is e-waste?

E-waste or electronic waste consists of batteries, computer parts, wires, electrical equipment of any kind, electrical and electronic toys, remotes, watches, cellphones, as well as bulbs, tubelights and CFLs.

How do I store e-waste?

Store them in separate container which is kept closed, away from moisture and in which nothing else is put.


What is wet waste?

Wet waste consists of kitchen waste – including vegetable and fruit peels and pieces, tea leaves, coffee grounds, eggshells, bones and entrails, fish scales, as well as cooked food (both veg and non-veg).

Can I compost at home?

Of course. Home composting can be easily done in Daily Dump’s pot system, or in any aerated container.

I don’t have time to compost at home, what are my alternatives?

If you live in a large apartment building, a community composting system like tank composting or an OWC could be set up for all the wet waste from the residents. If not, the wet waste can be given out every day to the BBMP.

If I don’t use a plastic liner, how do I dispose my food waste in the bin?

Before the advent of the bin liner, we would all put our garbage directly in the bin, and wash it everyday. That is what we will have to do now. The bin can be lined with a newspaper liner or a layer of sawdust if you don’t want to put the wet waste directly into it.


What is biomedical waste?

This includes used menstrual clothes, sanitary napkins, disposable diapers, bandages and any material that is contaminated with blood or other body fluids.

How do I dispose sanitary pads, diapers, condoms/soiled cotton??

They should be wrapped in a newspaper, marked with a red cross, and given everyday to the BBMP.

What do I do with waxing strips?

Used waxing strips are sanitary waste – they should be wrapped in a newspaper, marked with a red cross, and given to the BBMP.

How do I dispose human hair/nails?

Sanitary waste. Wrap in a newspaper, mark with a red cross, and give everyday to the BBMP.


What are hazardous wastes?

HHW or household hazardous wastes include three sub-categories – E-waste; toxic substances such as paints, cleaning agents, solvents, insecticides and their containers, other chemicals; and biomedical wastes like used syringes, expired medicines, thermometers, used cosmetics etc..

How do I dispose expired medicines/ injections?

Expired medicines and injections, used syringes come under HHW or household hazardous wastes. They should be stored separate from other categories of waste and given to the BBMP once every quarter.

What about razor?

It is HHW or household hazardous waste, like used syringes, etc. It should be stored separate from other categories of waste and given to the BBMP.

I have just painted my room. How do I dispose half used paint cans?

They come under HHW or household hazardous wastes. They should be stored separate from other categories of waste and given to the BBMP once every quarter.

Under what category do I place cosmetics?

They come under HHW or household hazardous wastes. They should be stored separate from other categories of waste and given to the BBMP once every quarter.

What about pesticides, cleaning solutions, mosquito repellants?

Same as above.

What do I do with my tube lights and other bulbs?

Same as above.


What do I do with garden waste?

Garden waste will be collected by the BBMP on specified days or can be dropped off at the nearest specified park for composting. Leaves can be composted in your house itself.

[Uma K also contributed to this article]

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About Pinky Chandran 30 Articles
Pinky Chandran is an independent researcher, author and a community journalist. She tracks policy and legal developments on issues related to waste management and its intersections. Garbage inspires her to write poetry and she runs her own blog wasteframes.com. She is the founding member of the Solid Waste Management Roundtable (SWMRT) and Trustee at Hasiru Dala. She is a dog lover and a pet parent.
About Sandya Narayanan 8 Articles
Sandya Narayan is a citizen of Bengaluru, and a member of Solid Waste Management Round Table (SWMRT)


  1. Hi, which brand do you use? You can flush it down the toilet, but do check whether your plumbing system allows it. Organic stuff should be easily compostable and vermicompostable too, but you have to figure out and come up with your own systems to do it.

  2. Hi Meera K, in case of changing the cat litter, how do I dispose the used cat litter? I use the organic type.

  3. Rita Mishra,
    Used paper napkins can be put into kitchen waste, they will decompose. But they are manufactured using chemicals, so better avoid them as much as possible!

  4. Nithya,
    For cat litter, a natural organic plant­/wheat fibre-based product can be used like Cat’s Best Litter. Once used, the clumps can flushed easily (depends on type of plumbing ­ – check with your apartment). The wheat fibre based material is quite absorbent, and breaks down in water (like poop). Available online or in pet stores. The flip side is it is more expensive. But very convenient in an apartment.

    Do not use clay (bentonite) ­based litter – they are not compostable or degradable. They have to be wrapped and put into reject.

    There is also plain sawdust (cheap!) ­that may work if you have a house with some garden space. You can buy sawdust from a local wood mill or from Daily Dump Compost. There is also recycled paper-based litter but not sure where it is available.

  5. Hi all. I have a cat at home and I use clay based cat litter at home. How should this waste be disposed?

    I was storing this separately and the BBMP waste collection person refuses to collect cat litter now – I am not sure why. Please can someone help?

    Thanks very much in advance!

    • I’m facing the same problem with bbmp refusing to take cat litter .What are the steps taken to avoid.Please let me know.

  6. Is there a difference between Segregate and Sorting?
    Will my child react differently if I tell my child that “Everything is Useful.” instead of saying n “Nothing is waste?”
    Will my child’s future get wired differently if my child get’s to know that sorting and putting in ANY order (size, texture, material, colour, shape) adds VALUE (aesthetic and then comercial) to EVERYTHING.

  7. I want to ask BBMP where to put used kitchen paper napkin which are wet ……should it go in wet waste tell me plzzzz….as soon as possible ……

  8. ITC picks up plastic and paper waste from my apartment. Try contacting them.

    Are there BBMP collection centres for HHW?

  9. I have tried composting vegetable & fruits wast and vegetarian leftovers at home. It attracts too many fruit flies (even though the smell was almost zero).

    The plastic, paper, chocolate/biscuit wrappers that I collected are not accepted by the scrap dealers in my neighbourhood (even though it is offered free).

    Unless there is a solution for the above recycling plastic & pager and composting will fail.

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