Separation of dry wet from wet waste and putting them in colour coded dustbins, or waste segregation as the practice is popularly known is being propagated by civic bodies all across India, ever since the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan began. The concept of waste segregation got a bigger boost on the occasion of World Environment Day on June 5 when a nationwide waste segregation campaign was launched by the Ministry of Urban Development. But the habitual practice of disposing of all kinds of waste together in a single dustbin has its own weight, which many residents across Indian cities are finding difficult to get rid of. While segregation campaigns are becoming popular and being launched with much fanfare, the habit of segregating waste is yet to catch up in full force. The scenario might change very soon in Bengaluru, where the city civic body and a group of young design students are utilising an app to monitor households which segregate waste and rates the level of segregation.
Calling themselves the Waste Samaritans, a group of five students from the Indian Institute of Science had developed the app as a project for their participation in the Reimagine Waste Hackathon held at the Indian Institute of Science in April 2016. From the time the won at the hackathon, the group has been in touch with the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagarika Palike (BBMP), to find out a way on how the app could be utilised in sync with the BBMP’s plans to encourage waste segregation among residents. In January 2017, Waste Samaritans and the BBMP ventured into a pilot project to test the app on an experimental basis across 250 households in Domlur Layout in Eastern Bengaluru. Ward 112 was chosen for the implementation of the pilot project.
A majority of the households did not segregate waste properly when we had begun the project. Some of the families were separating paper and plastic as dry waste, but would be putting wet waste in plastic bins and disposing these of. We decided to see the segregation habits of the households and whether they undergo any change in the coming months, said B.S. Wisvesh, member of Waste Samaritans.
The selected households for the implementation of the pilot project were given unique QR codes. Since the QR codes were given on the basis of property IDs, multiple houses in one apartment received one QR code. A total of 152 QR codes were generated for the 250 households in Ward 112. The BBMP pourakarmikas (waste workers) who are in charge of collecting garbage were given phones with the Waste Samaritans developed app installed in these phones. Pourakarmikas were asked to take photographs and rate properties on the basis of waste segregation. Properties practising segregation properly would receive five stars. The ratings would be given by the pourakarmikas themselves and the BBMP has provided the pourakarmikas background information on how the ratings would be decided.
When the residents saw that waste collectors are taking photographs of their waste disposal practices, they immediately began to adhere to the rules. Many households even bought colour coded dustbins and began segregating waste properly, said Mr Wisvesh.
More than 180 properties of the 250-odd in the ward have achieved 100 per cent segregation in the last three months. The developers of the app at Waste Samaritans are of the opinion that if implemented across the city, the app would achieve better waste segregation for the whole of Bengaluru.
The city civic body is not far behind itself when it is about adopting technology in the field of waste management. The civic body has concluded developing the Shuchi Mitra app, which will work on the lines of the app developed by the Waste Samaritans. The Shuchi Mitra app will give the BBMP exact numbers related to the amount of waste generated and collected from each household. The app will be in sync with BBMP’s other technological advances like GPS enabled waste collection vehicles and biometric attendance systems for waste workers. The civic body plans to launch the app soon.
The app will give us proper numbers related to waste generated from households. On knowing that, we can take steps to collect waste, as well as check whether segregation is practiced among households which are generating unusually large quantities of waste. The app will help us monitor the rate of waste segregation in the city. We are planning to have a grand launch of the app very soon, said Sarfaraz Khan, Joint Commissioner, Solid Waste Management, BBMP.
The BBMP had already taken a bold step earlier in July when it took the onus of collecting waste on itself and not outsourcing it to contractors. By bringing in apps to monitor waste segregation and collection, the civic body has indeed taken another interesting step to address the age-old problem of waste in the city. It now remains to be seen how effective the implementation turns out to be at a city-wise scale. Bengaluru had ranked a low 210 in Swachh Survekshan 2017 and one of the complaints was the rampant disposal of unsegregated waste throughout the city. With its adoption of technology, the BBMP would hope that Bengaluru’s ranking improves with better waste management.
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