In the mid-1990s, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi provided residents in Shalimar Bagh and nearby areas with bags of two colours so that dry and wet waste could be disposed of separately. The MCD wanted to broadbase the experiment with the idea that if waste was segregated at source, only 20% of it would reach landfills.
But people disregarded the segregation concept and used both types of bags to dispose all kinds of waste. The mindset of people as well as that of civic agencies continues even today, explaining why Delhi has not been able to manage its waste effectively.
“Segregation is still a problem. Only bio-degradable waste such wet kitchen waste, which requires less space, should reach landfills. Then landfills have a longer lifespan. Non-bio-degradable wastes like wood, paper and plastic should go for recycling,” said Mahendra Pandey, who has worked with the central pollution control board for 18 years.
“We did an experiment in a New Delhi municipal council area, allowing rag pickers to do the segregation. They were allotted certain garbage houses and a very little amount of waste reached the landfills. That’s the way forward. Waste-to-energy plants fail because there’s no proper segregation. There’s no dry waste,” he said.
As much as 50% of the waste is fit for composting. About 30 per cent of the waste is recyclable. So only 20% of the waste should reach the landfills.
Yogendra Mann, director (press) of East and North MCDs, said, “We’re doing our bit. But people need to cooperate. Of the six zones of the North MCD, waste management in five has been outsourced. In two zones, Rohini and Civil Lines, a firm collects waste from people’s doorstep, segregates, transports and manages it at landfills. In three other zones, another firm collects waste from dhalaos, segregates and disposes it.”
“In East MCD, a pilot project has started in two wards. An NGO is involved in door-to-door collection of garbage. Before transportation, waste is segregated with help from ragpickers,” said Mann.
“More than 15 landfill sites have already been filled up in Delhi. Of the four currently being used, three have exhausted their lifespan. Because of scarcity of land, environmental concerns, more landfills are not likely to come up anytime soon. So segregation remains the key,” he said.