How to win Delhi’s Garbage Crisis?

Delhi garbage problem

The concerns over the garbage disposal in Delhi are growing just like the heaps of garbage accumulated in its three landfills at Okhla, Bhalswa, and Okhla. These sites were formed by the municipal corporation sometime between the 1980s to 1990s.

A landfill is a piece of land designated for the burial or dumping of waste. Although the landfills helped in getting rid of the problem of waste disposal then, it has become a full-blown crisis today.

Over the years, the population increased, the city expanded, and there has been a rise in the use of single-use plastic and disposable items, as a result of which, the amount of garbage produced has increased exponentially and the issue has reached its tipping point now.

The disaster at the landfill sites

These three sites today have been turned into huge mountains of garbage way taller than the recommended limit of 20 meters. The sites have become major environmental and health hazards. The records show that the three sites hold more than three crore metric tonnes of solid waste. These are sources of various contaminants, disease-causing microbes, allergies, etc. The rainwater gets mixed with the waste and forms black liquid which pollutes nearby water bodies and the river Yamuna. Moreover, the sites often catch fires that remain alive for days worsening Delhi’s air pollution problem. The contaminants pose the risk of allergies, cancer, organ failure, and birth defects to nearby residents. 

The government’s take

The local government has been taking immense efforts to reduce the heaps of garbage at the three sites. The government has spent over 275 crores for waste treatments at the three sites, but the conditions remain unchanged. As a result, the national green tribunal has collected an environmental compensation fine of 900 crore rupees from the municipal corporation. The collected fine is intended to be used for the restoration of the sites. The reports from various sources state that the amount of waste recycled for energy or compost applications is very less. Most of the waste generated in the city ends up in landfill sites. The crisis at the three sites is slowly turning into a catastrophe, thus warrants immediate and effective action by the government. 

Startups solving Delhi’s waste problem-

Realising the horrors of the garbage mountain at these sites, various organisations are working relentlessly to solve the crisis by providing sustainable solutions.

  • ScrapUncle – The company provides online service for door-to-door scrap pickup and sends it for recycling. From paper to appliances, household to industrial waste they recycle everything!
  • Wastelink – It is a Delhi-based start-up that works to eliminate food wastage. The team helps food manufacturers, kitchens, and restaurants by accepting extra and waste food. They convert this food into innovative animal feed improving the nutrition of the animals. The model is an excellent example of a circular economy. 
  • Garbage Clinic – The Garbage Clinic was started in 2016 by Mr. Praveen Nayak after witnessing a horrifying incident of a garbage mountain collapse killing four people. The team collects garbage from the houses and recycles it. They aim to reduce the amount of garbage dumped at landfills.
  • Ecosage – It is a recycling company that uses advanced technologies to treat solid waste, reduces the amount of garbage dumped at landfills.
  • Namo e-waste – The company specialises in the disposal of electronic waste. They provide a collaborative platform for the users, collectors, manufacturers, and recycler making the process easy for all stakeholders.
  • EcoEx – The company offers a digital market for the management and recycling of plastic waste. Additionally, they also provide consultancy services for the establishment of recycling units, waste-to-energy plants, waste-to-oil plants, etc. 
  • BatX Energies Pvt. Ltd. – Their motto is to provide sustainable energy for everyone, always. The company is involved in the recycling of end-of-cycle lithium-ion batteries. They extract metal and other materials to make new batteries. The idea is to reduce waste and recycle it into a sustainable energy source.
  • Extra Carbon – It is a sub-branch of Greentooth Technologies that provides pickup and recycling services for household waste materials. By giving away the waste, the seller gets credit coupons which can be redeemed later. Thus, the company practices give and take policy facilitating the recycling of waste.
  • ZipTrax Clean Tech Pvt. Ltd. – A tech company that extends the longevity of lithium-ion batteries with the help of artificial intelligence technology. Their motto is recycling, repurposing, and recovery!
  • GEM Enviro Management Pvt. Ltd. – The organisation is involved in recycling all packaging products thus reducing the amount of waste ending up at landfills.
  • Synergy Waste Management – This pro-environment company focuses on the management of boil-medical waste. The bio-medical waste is particularly hazardous if not disposed of correctly. 
  • Waaris Green Labs – The organisation work with various institutions like schools, and companies and help them manage their waste. The idea is to recycle everything. At present, the team is working on developing furniture from waste using advanced technologies. 
  • enCypher Technologies Pvt. Ltd. – The company uses the internet of things (IoT) to provide smart systems for everything. The idea is to employ smart technologies to have smart homes and smart cities.
  • Timarpur-Okhla Waste Management Pvt. Ltd. – The company is at the forefront of waste management in Delhi. It is involved in recycling waste to generate compost, energy, and other useful applications. 
  • Greenobin – The company specialises in the recycling of paper. They provide services to industries as well as local governing bodies to reduce the waste material in landfill.

These are just a few examples of the actions taken by various organisations to manage Delhi’s waste problem. Despite all these actions, Delhi seems to be sinking into the pools of garbage.

The key reasons behind this failed waste management are as follows-

  1. Proper segregation of waste is required for further recycling; however, the majority of the waste still goes into the dumpsters in unsegregated form. 
  2. Lack of garbage pickup service in some of the areas. This leads to the accumulation of garbage on roads and grounds.
  3. Lack of proper system and protocol in place for waste management and treatment. 

Can Technology Help Us Solve The Garbage Crisis?

The concept of landfills has existed since historic times however there are relatively few landfills today with advanced waste disposal and treatment techniques. Technology seems to have been a lifesaver in waste management for most developed countries. These countries have adopted smart waste management system that has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of landfills. Some of the leading cities with smart waste management systems are San Francisco, Amsterdam, and Songdo. 

Let us explore some sustainable technological options that we could adopt to solve Delhi’s garbage problem.

  • Smart Waste Bins – Smart waste bins use artificial intelligence technology that assists in the auto segregation and recycling of waste. Smart bins can be installed in public places for ease of waste management. 
  • Waste level sensors – It is an advanced technology that helps in measuring the amount of waste in the bin using ultrasonic beans. The technology helps in the appropriate planning of dustbin clearance activity and coordinating the garbage pickup schedule.
  • Pneumatic Waste Collection – It is an automated garbage collection system with the help of pipe networks. The system makes garbage collection and disposal hygienic and easy. It is very energy efficient as it eliminates the need for garbage pickup trucks. 
  • Robotic Trash Cans – It is an advanced trash can that uses computer control, infrared sensors, and mechatronics for cleaning and collecting garbage from public places. 
  • Robot recycler – The technology uses a robot for sorting and recycling waste material, thus making manual sorting and segregation of waste obsolete. 
  • Solar Powered Trash Compactors – These are smart trash cans with sensors that detect the level of the garbage and help to compact it, thus increasing the holding capacity of the cans. 
  • E-waste Kiosks – The idea is to install kiosks that help in the easy and scientific disposal of electronic waste.
  • Plasma Gasification – The technology uses plasma to convert waste organic matter into syngas. It is an efficient and eco-friendly technology for waste treatment and recycling. 

What can we as individuals do to help?

Besides the adoption of these technologies, there is a lot that we can do at an individual level. We must bear in mind that the efficiency of any waste management system depends on the awareness and implementation of sustainable practices at the household level. Some sustainable practices for household waste management include appropriate segregation of waste, using food/ kitchen waste for composting, saying no to plastic, reusing paper, doing paperless transactions, etc. The motto of every household should be ‘zero waste’ as much as possible. This can only be achieved by practicing the three ‘R’ principles of reduce, recycle, and reuse!

By Amruta Joshi

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