Waste in My Community
I’ve lived in Chennai for a decade now. Several things have changed. Empty lands then, are now compact with skyscrapers. Small shops then, have now branched out into big malls. Dated designs then, are now modern and futuristic.
However, despite the strides and advancements in various forefronts, there’s still a segment that hasn’t experienced any change.
The waste in my community.
As I travel to college by bus, I see the waste collection points, same as in my childhood days – overflowing, with crows, cows, and dogs digging in to find something of value before the refuse collectors came to haul the accumulated wastes onto the truck.
In an area like Chennai, there exists a huge heterogeneity – houses, educational institutes, hospitals, commercial blocks, and industrial parks, producing heterogeneous wastes. Added to this, the dense population in Chennai only makes waste management an arduous task.
Exploring the Sources of Waste in My Community:
In a broader sense, the sources of waste in Chennai can be categorized in four.
• Municipal Waste
• Bio-medical Waste
• Industrial Waste
• Commercial Waste
The municipal wastes are those collected from the residential areas, streets, markets, and other regions in the urban limit, disposed of by the municipal bodies. Paper, clothes, plastic, metals, organic refuse, glass, etc., are the typical wastes generated from households, commercial blocks, and markets, which form the municipal waste. Research shows that Chennai accounts for 3,124 tonnes of municipal solid waste per day, with a per capita waste generation of 0.657 kg/day.
Statistics indicate the existence of 42 major hospitals in Chennai, each of them having more than 100 beds. What’s astonishing, according to the Deccan Chronicle dated January 19, 2016, is that 27 government hospitals with over 8,000 beds alone generate about 1,949 kg of bio-medical waste per day. Another report by the Times of India claims that Chennai’s 730 hospitals account for an average of 9,898kg of biomedical waste per day.
Bandages, infected needles, amputated body organs, dead foetuses, cultures, out-dated drugs, and other materials form this colossal quantum of bio-medical wastes. Unfortunately, 75% of these biomedical wastes are left to rot in the open in Chennai.
Chemical plants, paint industries, cement factories, textile industries, food processing industries, petroleum industries, thermal power plants, metallurgical plants, mining operations, and the like, contribute to the industrial wastes in Chennai. Dividing further, the industrial wastes can be classified as hazardous and non-hazardous wastes.
My Chennai community is truly a hotspot of commercial activities. The rapid advancements of the city have paved the way for automobiles, auto workshops, printing press, commercial complexes, and other amenities to flourish. And with that, many chemicals and disposable products are being produced from these units, to form the commercial wastes.
Types of Waste:
While wastes hail from various source points, they can be broadly classified into the following three types.
• Solid Waste
• Liquid Waste
• Gaseous Waste
The solid wastes discarded by my community are basically useless and unwanted substances. These typically include the solid refuse matters from the urban region, industries, and medical institutes. Worn out tires, scrap metal, latex paints, septage, furniture, toys, construction debris, syringes, sanitary napkins are a few examples of solid waste.
Liquid wastes are generally generated from washing, flushing or manufacturing processes of industries. Oftentimes, the liquid waste is branded sewage. Besides, it includes both point source and non-point source discharges like that of stormwater and wastewater.
Some examples of liquid wastes include the wash water from the houses, waste detergents, and liquids used for cleaning in industries. And in Chennai, the Koovam and Adayar rivers are famous for getting dumped with the liquid waste discharges.
The burning of fossil fuels, the gases from automobile factories, etc. cater to the production of gaseous wastes. These plumes then get projected into the atmosphere. The gases released as waste include carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, methane, ozone, etc.
Waste Management in My Community:
With such a huge quantum of waste generated in Chennai, in addition to the various sources and types of waste, the process of waste management eventually becomes tedious. Nevertheless, this could be meticulously managed by the deployment of advanced technology. GIS-based routing systems for waste collection and transportation, in synchronization with the standard waste disposal methods, would do the needful.
In this light, however, it’s essential to understand that the solid wastes dominate over liquid and gaseous wastes. While specialized protocols are followed for the disposal of the latter forms of wastes, the solid refuse has filled the dump yards to a point that they are in vital need of remediation and reclamation. An article from The Hindu cites that waste management in Chennai is estimated at ₹ 7,000 crores.
That intelligence being disclosed, I shall focus on solid waste collection, transportation, and disposal methods in my further discussions. Because, ideally this is the need of the hour, one that’s in dire need of avant-garde technology to ensure the proper management of solid wastes.
Solid Waste Collection:
The Chennai Corporation cites the collection of about 5400 MTs of garbage every day, with an additional 700 MTs of constructional debris. The primary solid waste collection is handled totally by manpower. Day and night conservancy operations take place between 6:30 AM – 1:30 PM and 9:00 PM – 2:00 AM. Besides, compactors and tricycles are also operated between 6:30 AM – 1:30 PM. In the bus route roads and the main roads, sweeping is carried out mechanically. Following are the equipments used in the solid waste collection process in Chennai.
• Coco brooms
• Aluminium baskets
• Iron plates
• Tricycles with bins
• Containerized push carts
Depending on the localities, three different types of collection systems are followed:
• Refuse Collection System: Involves the removal of household wastes from houses.
• Commercial Waste Collection: Involves the removal of commercial waste via dumpsters.
• Recyclable Material Collection: Involves the collection of recyclable materials which are segregated at the source.
Under the Municipal Solid Waste Collection Program, the door-to-door collection has been implemented in all the zones in Chennai. Statistics reveal that about 95% of the households are being covered under the same.
Solid Waste Transportation:
Once the solid wastes from various source points are collected, they are hauled onto the trucks to be dumped in the dump yards – Kodungaiyur and Perungudi, as far as my community is concerned.
In Chennai, this process begins from the street collections to reach the disposal site. Transfer stations serve as touchpoints. And the routing schedules are pre-assigned each and every day for each trip. 3600 tons of garbage are transferred to each of the transfer stations (7 in total) in Chennai.
Solid Waste Disposal :
The collected waste is dumped in the landfills – Kodungaiyur (area of 269 acres) in use over 35 years and Perungudi (area of 200 acres) in use over 30 years. However, to increase the lifetime of these landfills, source segregation is promoted. Thus segregated thin plastics are shredded in all the zones, and are used for laying bituminous roads. On the flip side, the non-biodegradable dry wastes are collected on Wednesdays for recycling.
The organic wastes are composted in a decentralized manner at the ward level by ordinary and vermicompost plants.
Following are some of the common procedures undertaken in the disposal of solid waste:
• Solid waste open burning
• Solid waste sanitary landfill
• Disposal by hog feeding and ploughing into fields
• Biological digestion
• Plasma gasification
Innovative Way Forward:
While we are equipped with palpable waste disposal methods, the complication arises in terms of the collection and transportation of solid waste. We need to understand that the waste produced, in reality, on a daily basis, is bound to fluctuate. In addition to that, the traffic in a locality can suddenly spike up, as opposed to optimal conditions, in the face of an accident or adverse climatic conditions, thus affecting the pre-assigned transportation route.
Here’s where GIS-based solid waste collection and transportation systems are beneficial. Right from selecting the landfill, to the formulation of an optimal routing system, GIS assists manifold.
To depict this in real-time, I’ve carried out a mini-project using minimal constraints. The area under study is 1.02 sq. km area of Mogappair. For the demonstration, individual residences, flats, gated communities, schools, and hospitals were considered. And that yielded a population of about 57,980 (under the assumption that four people lived in one house), producing approximately 40 tonnes of garbage, covering 413 bins. The image in the attachment shows the optimal routing of trucks. Taking this idea further, a cloud-hosted GIS routing system would go a long way in resolving the issues faced at the forefront of solid waste collection and transportation.
On A Finishing Note:
The waste in my community is indeed one of concern. Though complications persist, I am confident that with the measures taken by the Government, both technology and its implementation-wise, we would be able to scale it through.