A post-Auroville Experience…
The typical Indian city is far from implementing the basic rule of handling urban waste: segregation. The local residents’ association, however, takes the matter into its own hands once in a while. Waste is, after all, best dealt with at the source and, hence, best handled locally and in a decentralized system. As part of a survey to gauge the quantities of different types of waste we produce, random households in my township were given 8 garbage bags labelled PLASTIC, PAPER, METAL, SANITARY, HAZARDOUS, etc., and asked to segregate their daily household waste.
The very next morning, our landline phone rang.
Local garbage collection manager: Hello, madam, we are coming to collect the garbage bags that were recently handed out to houses in this area.
Me: Oh! Okay.. but it’s only been a day, the bags are hardly full!
Local garbage collection manager: Oh, really…hmm… okay…madam, how many members are residing in your house?
Local garbage collection manager: Okay, madam, I’ll enter some quantities in the survey data myself. If anyone asks, please tell them we came and collected the garbage bags, okay?
Me: Um, what? This is becoming a game of lies… what’s the point of the survey then?? Collect the bags when you need to…!
Local garbage collection manager: Really? Okay, madam, we’ll collect it today for sure!
And, they never turned up.
Adding to the irony, our maid didn’t know we had segregated the waste, and put all of it into one bag, ready for the daily garbage pick-up truck to take it the next morning. A failed survey and a rare attempt to manage household waste failed further, within the limits of a household itself. On asking various people in the house what happened to all the bags, each responded with an I-have-no-idea expression. Thus is the priority that waste management has in an urban household.
“Not in my backyard” is a standard city phenomenon. Everyone produces waste but none of us knows what to do with it, let alone WANT to do it. Having just returned from a place that has dedicated time and space for waste management, such situations, phone calls and people turn out to be frustrating.
Looking forward to better attempts in the future -_-