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Rag pickers scavenge for food and recyclable materials inside Delhi’s 70-acre, 100-foot high Ghazipur landfill in 2012. Indian city of Mysuru and the streets are full of the sound of whistles blowing as workers in olive green aprons and rubber gloves begin a door-to-door search. They have come to collect one of India’s biggest untapped resources: garbage. The roughly 1 million citizens in the southern city, also known as Mysore, are in the vanguard of a campaign by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to clean up the country and recycle rubbish into compost and electricity.
India’s cities are among the largest garbage generators in the world, producing about 62 million tons of waste every year. Most goes into landfills, open dump sites or is just left on the ground, often clogging rivers and drains. The recent rapid expansion of India’s economy has moved its reputation for poor sanitation and dirty streets into a full-blown crisis. Rising wealth and consumption, and growing urbanization could cause the amount of urban solid waste to increase fivefold by 2051, according to a paper published in 2016 by researchers at New Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia university. Nagaraj, health officer of the Mysuru City Corporation. As the morning whistle sounds in Mysuru, residents emerge from their homes with two bins — compostable and non-compostable — for the sanitary workers, who load up 400 push carts and 170 auto-tippers to go to nine recycling centers and a compost plant. At the centers, the trash is segregated, with reusable items such as bottles, metal, footwear and plastic cups sold to scrap dealers.
The remainder is composted and sold to farmers. A boy looks for recyclable materials at a garbage dump in Gauhati, India, in 2014. Waste is not a problem if it is converted into money,” said D. Madegowda, 75, one of the volunteers who set up a recycling plant near a graveyard in Kumbar Koppalu, where scrap items like used rubber gaskets are offered for sale. So far, the local government has manged to get the system to work by appealing to the public. Government employees go door-to-door to create awareness among residents.
The recycling units set up mostly by local residents or non-government organizations cover their costs through the sale of scrap and compost. Of the 402 tons of waste Mysuru produces each day, close to a quarter is processed by these centers and about half is treated at the compost plant. It also collects a solid-waste management levy from residents along with the property tax to help subsidize the program. Separation of waste is very important, but it’s only one part of the story,” said Swati Sambyal, a program manager at the Centre for Science and Environment in New Delhi. Most of the Indian municipalities don’t have enough manpower, vehicles, infrastructure and revenue to support the segregation.
Like most nascent recycling systems, Mysuru’s system depends partly on government support. The federal government last year began offering subsidies both to set up compost plants and to run them. Hopefully, we will now be able to break even,” said Chandra Shekhara, assistant manager of the Mysuru compost plant. The incentives have helped boost the nation’s production of compost from waste to 1. 31 million tons in August from 0.
15 million tons in March 2016. 3 billion by 2027, according to estimates by industry body Assocham in a 2015 report. Private companies were reluctant to enter the waste-processing business because of the high initial capital expenditure and the fact that profits depend on government support, said Amiya Kumar Sahu, founder and president of the Mumbai-based National Solid Waste Association of India. The companies need guaranteed supply of waste from the municipality and many also lack the expertise and technology. Indian workers warm themselves near a fire after sorting through garbage and picking out recyclable materials to sell from the Ghazipur landfill in east Delhi, India, in 2010. Modi’s government has also made it mandatory for the electricity board to buy power from the country’s seven existing waste-to-energy plants.