One day, the garbage truck didn't turn up.

Up until that time, I had never given much thought to the black plastic bags which I diligently tied with all my household waste in it. Everyday I kept it outside the door of my apartment in Malleshwaram to be taken away. It was the ‘kasa’, the ‘kachada’, the ‘garbage’ and that was it.

Read this article by Savita Hiremath, a resident at Brigade Regency Apartments, on her experience.

Up until that time, the sight of the large garbage collection truck, with its blue sheet flapping in the wind and leaving a trail of garbage and odour from its holds, was just a mode of transport which would take away my neatly tied black garbage bag from my apartment - out of sight and out of mind.

But that one instance changed the way I looked at the neatly tied black plastic bag and the garbage collection truck.

It was already two days and the garbage collection truck had not come by. The black and white plastic bags were neatly kept around in our building open storage area, adjacent to the driveway. I could see them from my balcony.

Biowaste is being dumped into a drum for immediate disposal which will be later collected by the corporation staff. Pic: SavitaHiremath.

By the third day, after another round of collection of plastic bags from all the houses (we are 68 in all), the truck was still not in. Some of the residents and the apartment association committee members then discussed the issue and made the necessary follow up calls and were reassured that the bags would be picked up soon. And now a few more of us started looking at the storage area where the plastic bags were stored, noting unconsciously that there is indeed a lot of plastic bags around.

And by the fifth day the situation turned to real concern and fear, for what we could see was a sea of plastic bags all sitting around, while all our children were playing in the driveway. The accidental wrong hit and all our children would be scrambling amongst the sea of plastic garbage looking for their ball. There were also rodents the size of little horses that now had a new home. It was a disaster waiting to happen.

The garbage truck finally cleared our sea of garbage bags on the sixth or the seventh day, and I well remember the taste of fear  and feeling of anger and helplessness all of us felt by then.

Kitchen waste is being dumped into the compost pit. Pic: Savita Hiremath.

And so began my journey of knowing and understanding what was going  into my plastic garbage bag and what was happening to it thereafter and I have been mindful of it ever since.

I was inclined to think of a practical solution rather than moving to a activist mode, with slogans and protests and that’s  what we have set up in the building - a system of managing the waste.

The common generic words ‘kasa, kachada, garbage’ are not part of our vocabulary any more. We now know them only as either wet waste, dry waste, e-waste or bio-medical waste.

Coming across the NGO Saahas only reinforced ‘the manage’ instinct , for here was a ‘system’ that they were able to offer, of dealing with wet Waste. The critical thing was, it looked like it would make us self sufficient and independent of the garbage collection truck.

Housekeepers Anitha, Shantha, and Anjali carry the waste for final disposal. Pic: Savita Hiremath.

We, the core group for setting up solid waste management system liked what we saw. We had to think up of a way of  setting up the same system in our building with our given resources of manpower and money. All of us who had gone through the experience didn’t need convincing on, ‘Why should we… ' but on on the ‘How should we…..’.

With homework done and after convicing the RWA General Body we set up the ‘Aerobic Digester’ with the technical support of Saahas. Many circulars, meetings and awareness programmes later and after much tweaking and fine tuning, today we have a waste management system set up running at 90 per cent participation from our residents to deal with 90 per cent of waste being generated. Wet waste is  composted inhouse, dry waste is sold of to the recyclers (raddiwala) on a weekly basis, e–waste being collected separately and given to recyclers.

Shruti, housekeeper at Brigade Regency, Malleswaram, collects the segregated garbage from each flat. Pic: Savita Hiremath.

And now when I look into the building storage area from my balcony, instead of the  ubiquitous neatly tied plastic bags waiting to be taken away…(God knows where ) by the garbage collection truck, I see the composting tanks flanked on one side by the garden litter enclosure and by the recycling drums on the other. And I watch with a smile as two little boys go scrambling after the ball somebody has hit there.   ⊕

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