Once a jungle, Bangalore’s recycling hub faces rising costs

Ashali Bhandari, Bangalore Community Manager
Bangalore, November 2, 2015

Bangalore’s Municipal Corporation and informal waste economy work together to collect and process the city’s daily waste generation of 3,000 – 5,000 tons. With waste separation mandated at the source, informal waste pickers and municipal employees work at Dry Waste Collection Centers (DWCCs) in over 100 wards to separate waste into two categories: that to be sent to a landfill and that to be sold to scrap dealers and processed for recycling. Approximately 1,050 tons of waste are recycled daily and thus the informal recycling economy saves the city Rs. 84 crore (almost $13 million) annually.

Nayandahalli, one of the largest recycling hubs in the city, was established in the 1970s when the area was no more than what some would describe as a “jungle” with “no electricity, water or roads.” Today, it is one of the largest recycling hubs in the city with over 250 godowns (plants that further separate waste and recyclables). With the expansion of the Metro services, the godown owners in Nayandahalli, who primarily rent the land, have been receiving notices to move out. The high price elasticity of the land incentivizes the landowners to look for more ‘lucrative’ tenants.

"If there is a market for scrap, why does it have to be informal?" asks Hasiru Dala, founder Nalini Shekar. Hasiru Dala, a member-based organization of waste pickers, is working with the Indian Institute of Human Settlements in an ongoing study to help mitigate displacement and push for subsidized rents. The study, which is expected to be completed by May 2016, is looking to highlight the necessity of the recycling industry for the city. Quantifying the contribution of these godowns is the first step in fighting for a permanent home for them in the city.

The study enlists researchers trained in research methods and grassroots mobilization as well as locals to gain a holistic understanding of how the informal waste economy operates. Along with establishing the number of laborers, quantity of waste that is recycled, and economic benefits for the city, the study is looking at policies that could help alleviate the waste economy’s susceptibility to external factors that reduce the demand for recycled materials from Nayandahalli.

The pilot survey of 50 godowns begins to shed light on the volume of waste processed by these centers. Each month the sample of 50 godowns receives 552.5 tons of dry waste from the DWCCs for further sorting. After the waste has been segregated into five main categories based on material, it is further divided into categories based on color, texture, and quality. On average 26% of the received waste is rejected and 407.24 tons are sent to processors for recycling each month. This means that these 50 godowns sort through and recycle 2.23% of all the dry waste generated by residents of Bangalore.

Extrapolated to all 250 godowns: 10.94% of the city’s generated dry waste is sent to Nayandahalli, only one of the handful of areas that sort through dry waste as part of the recycling industry. Hasiru Dala is documenting their progress to raise awareness about the positive contribution the recycling industry provides to the city and will hopefully help negotiate for a safe space where the industry can grow.

Photo credit: SuSanA Secretariat

Permalink to this discussion: http://urb.im/c1511
Permalink to this post: http://urb.im/ca1511bge