Given that Bangalore generates over 5000 tons of waste daily, 60% of this waste is organic. The potential to halve the problem of waste to landfill is enormous. And the need of the hour is to accelerate segregated waste collection in the strictest sense.

mixed waste collection

Bangalore has made the right moves on paper with a push for decentralised waste management.
Early in 2012, the Karnataka High Court delivered a progressive judgment directing the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike( BBMP) to collect segregated waste at source and transport it to composting and recycling units. Consequently, earlier this year, the Karnataka State Agricultural Department proposed to build decentralised compost pick-up points, for city compost from urban organic waste.

Correspondingly, the State government announced the Karnataka Organic Farming Policy 2017, a revised version of the 2004 policy.  Though the policy does touch upon the need for conservation and management of soil and water, it does not explicitly detail the use of urban organic waste to compost. Nevertheless, it is a step in the right direction.  The Minister of Agriculture for State, Krishna Byre Gowda, in a press address mentioned that farmers could place bulk orders for compost at the Raitha Samparka Kendras and that compost would be sold at a subsidised cost of Rs. 800 per ton, including the cost of transportation.

The reason
A move to composting food waste would mean closing the loop – from a linear system of food to waste, to a circular system of food to food. Food waste or organic waste must be treated as a resource with regenerative power and a return on investment saving money on transportation to centralised places accepting mixed waste.

Mixed waste processing is a proven recipe for disaster. The process is cumbersome and expensive and counterproductive. Cumbersome, because it includes long distance travel to dump waste in someone else’s backyard.  Piled on top in a man-made hill structure, is a sitting time bomb, as evidenced from the Deonar Landfill mishap in Mumbai.

Landfills are the fourth largest generators of manmade greenhouse, which is about 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere. Composts generated from mixed waste processing are known for poor productivity of crops. Even the leachate that is generated from mixed waste contaminates water bodies.

Going full circle- food to food
On the other hand, clean segregated organic waste has multiple benefits and has been documented widely – a direct benefit by composting segregated organic waste is cutting harmful methane emissions. The black gold so generated by composting food waste also helps in conserving topsoil and increase water holding capacity.

In Bengaluru
Some wards like HSR Layout and Yelankha have been able to abide by the three way segregation rule using the 2bin1bag approach by active citizen participation. In this approach, the biodegradable or organic waste (kitchen waste, garden waste) is segregated into a green bin,  the domestic hazardous waste (sanitary and medical waste) is segregated into a red bin and the non biodegradables or dry waste (recyclable material: plastic, newspaper, glass etc.) is segregated into a reusable bag.

In San Francisco
A mandatory composting law has turned food waste generation into profit by reducing load on landfill, building resistance to drought, increased production for farmers and a decrease in carbon emissions.

Way forward
Declare a composting revolution; ‘no food waste to landfill’ should become the mantra. Demand an effective implementation of policies, join the citizens’ movement and learn from neighbourhoods that have managed to drive in a system for three-way segregation of waste.  Support the Greenpeace India Campaign on Waste to Food, for a sustainable, smart and healthy city. Join your neighbourhood Composting Santhes co organised by the BBMP and citizens group.

Pinky Chandran is a member of the Solid Waste Management Round Table (SWMRT)

Note:  At SWMRT, we started a campaign the previous year titled “SwachaGraha”, which challenges people to take up the green spot challenge by either opting for individual composting or community composting, with the mantra of compost, grow, and cook. The campaign also aims to highlight the importance of no food waste to landfill and growing safe food, for a sustainable living. (