Authored by Sandya Narayanan, Member, Solid Waste Management Round Table (SWMRT)
Solid waste management in recent years has seen a lot of improvements, thanks to the Solid Waste Management (SWM) Rules 2016 and the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, both of which have made local bodies more accountable in the manner in which they deal with the municipal solid waste. Bengaluru has been the pioneer and has demonstrated new ideas and bold approaches. The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) SWM Bye-Laws published in June 2020 is no exception, in fact it could be said that it is probably the most comprehensively and well-articulated SWM Bye-Laws in the country.
Having said that, it is important to understand how the SWM Bye-Laws have addressed the aspect of dry waste management and its impact on waste pickers.
It is a well-known fact that Bengaluru pioneered the three-way segregation back in 2012, so it is not surprising that three-way segregation is central to the approach of the Bye-Laws. It mandates that waste is to be separated into wet, dry and sanitary waste and recommends the use of colour coded vehicles. Dry waste collection has been assigned the colour code of blue.
SWM Bye-Laws also recommends the use of dedicated vehicles at separate frequencies for each of the waste streams, with wet and sanitary waste collected on a daily and the dry waste on a bi-weekly frequency.
What is interesting at this stage is that the Bengaluru SWM Bye-Laws is the first and only one in the country to give a comprehensive definition recognising waste pickers, informal waste collectors and further different kinds of dry waste into recyclable and non-recyclable waste. The Bye-Laws clearly assigns the responsibility for collection and managing of the dry waste through sorting to the waste pickers.
Having pioneered the concept of dry waste collection centres (DWCCs), Bengaluru goes one step further to further assign the operations of these centers to the waste pickers. The Bye-Laws recognise that the operations of dry waste will allow for the sale of the recyclable waste and that the revenue from such sale will be used by the waste pickers to run the operations of the DWCC. This is a highlight worth mentioning as the local body is not staking claim to the revenues from the dry waste and allows the waste picker to access the waste directly and retain the revenue earnings from it.
The critical reform in improving solid waste management is the recognition that it is not just important to manage waste but that it also has to be managed in a sustainable manner. The SWM Bye-Laws in its attempt to ensure recovery of the recyclable fraction by the waste pickers, ensuring viability of operations by allowing the waste pickers to retain the revenues and further to restrict the disposal through co-processing of dry waste only to non-recyclable dry waste truly demonstrates its intention of sustainable waste management.
The next steps of good implementation is key to up holding the BBMP SWM Bye-Laws in letter and spirit.