The project was commissioned to Pro Waste in 2013. The institution, then housed in a temporary building had various categories of waste generated from faculty and students’ residences, canteens, labs and other facilities.
Bangalore-based Pro Waste Concepts Pvt. Ltd, a for-profit social enterprise has put together an end-to-end waste management concept for institutions with zero diversion of the waste from the landfills as the goal. The IIT campus in Gandhinagar, one of the adopters of Pro Waste’s solution has been recognized and has found a creditable place in the nation-wide Swacch Bharat movement. Vijayalakshmi Sridhar presents the significant aspects of the poster concept in an interview with Nupur Tandon, Founder, Pro Waste Concepts.
Pro Waste Concepts devised step one that includes working at the source level from segregation of organic and inorganic waste. Step two was to set up the infrastructure to collect and store the waste and also train the housekeeping staff to transport the collected waste, handle and also store it appropriately.
We create a system, awareness, guidelines and SOPs for them to follow. The leadership is most important. If the leader has a strong and clear vision then everything falls into place smoothly and quickly. It takes at least six months to connect, break through the routine in any place and get the new system rolling with everyone in the waste chain doing their job without fail. Until everyone is habituated, we have to keep nudging them to stay on track.
The responsive equation
At IIT, the receptiveness for the waste management system was great. Being a value-driven institution that is persistent on doing things right, it was all set to become a zero-waste campus. Everyone absorbed the gravity of the mission, individual roles and responsibilities well. We designed a pit in the ground and directed the segregated organic waste to it and other kinds were waste were directed to be picked up by corresponding vendors.
In 2015 when the institution moved to the current, permanent campus, with six hostels, residential area, academic block, two student messes the transition did nothing to harm the well-oiled, well-attended to waste routine. Only a scale up was effected. Nupur’s awareness creation and training picked up well in the campus. Soon, with the green garden waste in the tree-lined campus and the food waste, in-house composting was also introduced. Even the construction debris and packaging material were collected and disposed off for recycling.
WM- the badge of distinction
Three years after we initiated a system, IIT GN has an in-house biogas plant, a composting pit and generates revenue from waste. IIT GN diverts more than a tonne of waste per day from the landfills and 80% of the waste is managed in house. One tonne wet waste from the canteens and other places is inputted to the biogas plant that is fed twice a day. The plant produces two cylinders biogas and 0.08-0.10 tonne per day of manure. The gas is used for cooking and also to generate electricity. The waste management practices have not only made the campus self sufficient in some ways, it has also contributed to its image building.
Whenever I visit the campus, people come to me to share their joy in segregating and generating compost in the campus. And the best part is they share their dissatisfaction over other campuses they have visited where only cleaning happens and segregation and disposal are not taken care of. Of course, continuous communication and regular audits keeps everything going in the right direction.
But there are still some challenges in waste management to be worked out.
The low-grade plastic is one such intractable issue. Having no recyclable value, it ends up nowhere but in the landfills. Right from the ice cream cups, chocolate and chips wrappers, cupcake liners to the disposable drinking cups, this inorganic material is everywhere in wide use. These are the things that are used every day by students and faculty members in conferences, seminars, meetings, etc. With a holistic approach, Pro Waste is recommending eco friendly alternatives to reduce waste such as using reusable cups, water bottles and cutlery. Thanks to the evolving waste management community, a viable solution is also in sight. It is found that this kind of plastic can be used in cement plants and also building roads. Soon, ironing out the logistics, it can be made practical and accessible for all.
How-to of WM
More government support and a better framework for waste management are needed. If these are streamlined, Pro Waste Concepts’ ultimate goal of a future without landfills is a sure possibility. When you think of waste management, you have to think about the entire process. A perfectly devised system should not only motivate to segregate but work out the rest of the channel perfectly with appropriate recycling avenues. Just taking the waste off the campuses doesn’t end it. That is deceptive cleaning. Equally important is the people’s involvement and abiding of the rules of the system.