Friday, May 15, 2009

Improving Recycling Systems in Goa

Can we have a state of the art recycling system in Goa that functions locally without too much of effort. Yes, it’s possible and we can start right now says Clinton Vaz.

A few weeks ago, a friend diagnosed me as a person with an abnormal fixation on garbage. Now while that probably does not seem too appealing for one's self image, at a time like this, we need more and more people that get fixated on garbage... in a positive way.

It's not that bad really, if one actually looks at the things we've been upto. Improper waste management is a burning issue, and it's directly linked to climate change. In December this year, decision makers of the entire world will travel to Copenhagen to discuss ways in which the world can live better, and cause less harm. Globally, it’s a lot of promises to be made, and a lot of actions that need to be done too. A lot of people think, and I agree with them that this meeting at Copenhagen, might be one of our last chances to make a significant impact to combat climate change. Being that change is not difficult, starting is. Start in whatever small way you can. I'm sure you could think of a few ideas that you could implement already.

So going back to some interesting things that we've been involved with in waste, there's much to write about. This fixation's caused me to learn that Plastic PET bottles actually get converted into t-shirts, when recycled. Did you know that TetraPak Cartons become roofing sheets, and used plastic bags become trendy handbags after a conversion process? It’s also nice to see my neighbours in Cuncolim come up to my durig (compound wall), and curiously bend over to glimpse Babuni, our handyman and me sieve our harvested compost last week. 'It looks just like tea powder' said one and the other could not believe that we harvested 80kgs of compost from two small composting bins.

Yesterday, and today, I've been working on the final bits of some recycling labels specially designed for goa. This is going to be something new, and take recycling in Goa to a new level.

The thing is that if we are sincerely concerned and want to recycle our waste, today all we can do is separate our waste into wet and dry. In some cities like Panjim, this separated dry waste actually gets collected and recycled. However, the success of Panjim’s recycling is because waste is collected at source, door to door. If we actually put wet and dry bins on the street, it would never work, not with the people we live with. Mixing waste is not an Indian thing however, it's worldwide. In Portugal and Sweden, some streets and malls had bins with 3 or 4 separate waste compartments; however, most of them were mixed. What is needed however is awareness for proper separation, and until that comes, door to door seems to be the only way to ensure that properly separated waste can be collected for further processing.

If one wants to go a step further, its' possible to separate the dry waste into further categories of plastics, metal, glass and so on, but we often find it difficult to find people that recycle all those items.

Imagine if there was a system where you would take your waste to a central point, where you put all your dry waste into 8-10 separate categories of recyclable items. To make it convenient, each of these bins are colour coded, have a category name and sketches of the right items to go into each of the labeled bins. If you still get confused, a courteous staff comes by to help you separate this waste into the appropriate bin. There’s no need to worry about the contents of the bins being mixed, as the bins would be always manned and within a gated structure that accepts dry waste only during office hours.

Waste that’s pre-separated would directly go to recycling industries, ensuring that more than 75% of the dry waste entering the facility is recycled. Ofcouse, there’s always going to be a bin for items that can’t currently be recycled.

And the cherry at the top of it all? You get paid for your efforts. Your waste, after duly weighing and separating into each of the category has specific monetary values. A chart, displaying the recycling rates for each of the bins, would be displayed and the courteous staff would reimburse you the value of the items there and then.

This could also be replicated closer to peoples home, but slightly differently at housing colonies that want to make a difference.

Situated within a housing colony, the labeled but unmanned bins are locked, and only have access for waste to be put in and not taken out. To ensure bins do not receive mixed waste, the bins have appropriate openings, for example, the bin receiving paper would have a mail box-like slot opening. The PET bottle bin would have a round opening to ensure that only bottles enter. Once filled, or once a week, a recycler comes by to pick each of the recyclable fractions, paying the society the refund values of each of the bins. The local municipality would only need to come by once a week and pick up and empty the bin containing the non recyclable items.

Such a system might seem unbelievable here in Goa, but I believe that we are ready for such facilities are certain areas. In fact, this kind of system is already in existence in 4 different sites, and I’d be more than glad to show readers the workings of it. Interested? Let me know! In the meantime, I’m getting back to working on the final touches to the labels.

Clinton Vaz, 28 lives in Benaulim and works on environment and wildlife issues in Goa. He can be contacted at or +91 9890936828 This article appeared on Gomantak Times, 15th May 2009


Bernadette Chai said...

I like your blog cos its all about "Improving Recycling Systems In Goa"
I hope your blog will be more popular bcos it is good to recycling......Thks!!!!!!

vanessa said...

Your writing is interesting just like the guest lecture we had in college by you.
I stay in a village named chinchinim and nothing like separating garbage exists out here, cause all the waste is burnt. What I would like to know is how to get separation of garbage bins near the our punchayat just like how benulaim has started near their panchayat? If there were bins for placing the separated garbage it would be a start for people to do so. And if something like being paid for the waste existed, I can say that people would take an interest even in their garbage if money was attached to it as a reward.
awaiting your reply and thank you for your time.

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