Updated: Nov 20
The efforts to create a sustainable and efficient waste management system in the Chengalpattu district of southern India is in full swing.
- The Clean Oceans through Clean Communities (CLOCC) project follows an extensive methodology, but we are well underway, and expect to have completed a waste master plan by March 2024. It must be comprehensive, and contain a more sustainable and circular treatment for all types of waste, says Oda Korneliussen, programme manager at CLOCC .
She was recently in Chengalpattu, located in the state of Tamil Nadu, to follow up on the project that was kicked-off in December 2022, with the Technical Director at ISWA (International Solid Waste Association), Aditi Ramola.
Open burning and dumping of waste is a challenge
Chengalpattu has an extensive littering challenge. The CLOCC project’s data survey found that approximately 65 percent of all the waste that is generated in the district is collected, but only 21 percent of the material is recycled. The majority of the waste that is collected ends up at a landfill site with minimal controls. 35 percent of the waste is not collected, and is dumped or burned in nature.
Most of the value that can be recycled is captured by informal waste workers, so-called waste pickers, who sell the materials. Much is also collected by intermediaries also called "aggregators", who collect waste of value and sell it on to recycling operators.
Most littering in rural areas
Tamil Nadu’s capital, Chennai, located on the border of the district of Chengalpattu has relatively well functioning waste management compared to that in the rural areas. The big city has a high level of waste collection, and it is collected in several fractions.
The reason why waste management works better in the urban areas is mainly financing and logistics. The city is wealthier, and it is easier to collect waste collection fees. In addition, there is better infrastructure and shorter distances to cover.
Chengalpattu has a long coastline. A lot of waste ends up in the sea through the big Palar river, especially during the monsoon season. CLOCC estimates that 7,546 tonnes of plastic from Chengalpattu end up in waterways annually. This is approximately 1,509 lorry loads, assuming that one truck load contains five tonnes of plastic waste.
- This supports the experiences we in CLOCC have also gained in Indonesia - that it is in the rural areas that waste management is really lacking, and constitutes major leaks into the environment including into the sea, says Aditi Ramola, who is leading the CLOCC India project.
14-15 truck loads end up at the dumpsite daily
Much of the waste that is collected is transported to the large Aapur landfill site. This is not an official landfill, but a formal dumping site used by the entire district. 14-15 trucks with waste arrive here every day. Aapur does not have any form of leachate or gas collection or other environmental protection.
Right next to the dumpsite is a settlement of informal waste workers. The settlement has no water or electricity, and consists of 20-25 families, who work daily at the dumpsite to find waste of value that they can resell. Waste pickers account for approximately 45 percent of material recycling in Chengalpattu, according to CLOCC's baseline data assessment survey.
CLOCC has interviewed some of the waste pickers about their situation. Here is some feedback:
"If we find work outside the dump site, we can get jobs where wages and work are unpredictable and uncertain. But here at the dump site, we are contractors, we find waste that we sell, so that we are left with cash every day."
CLOCC's project in India
CLOCC collaborates with the organisations Hand in Hand Sweden and Hand in Hand India, which is part of the international organization Hand in Hand. The organization has experience in mobilizing volunteers, and a wide network in the region and especially in the district of Chengalpattu.
Communication and raising awareness is also an important part of the CLOCC programme. Hand in Hand India has engaged the authorities participating in the CLOCC project in so-called Eco-Wards which are within the four municipalities that we are working with. There are teams working in the field to raise awareness on waste management issues in the Chengalpattu district. This involves various forms of communication such as door-to-door awareness-raising and communication campaigns, games and competitions.
- CLOCC works holistically using an extensive participatory planning process to design a waste system, focusing on all waste fractions, not only for plastics. Additionally, CLOCC works with a broad involvement of local authorities and stakeholders, to create a waste system with broad local support and ownership. This is very important so that the waste master plan is implemented and actually put into practice, says Ramola.
CLOCC wants to expand to more areas in India, but this is dependent on external funding. CLOCC also wants its methodology for capacity building and waste planning to be expanded to new areas and countries across the globe, albeit with local adjustments.
- The littering challenge is enormous in many countries, especially in emerging economies such as India and Indonesia. There is a great need to support local authorities in developing efficient and circular waste systems with a focus on reduce, reuse and recycle, says Korneliussen.
CLOCC follows the step-by-step Integrated Sustainable Waste Management (ISWM) method, which has seven steps.
Organize and plan the process in collaboration with local authorities.
Carry out a comprehensive baseline data assessment survey for the area the waste plan must cover, to find out how much waste is generated, which fractions, how they are treated, recycling rate, how much is collected and how much is burned openly and how much ends up in the environment. The data forms the basis for the plan to be developed. CLOCC has been using UN Habitat’s Waste Wise Cities Tool for this baseline data gathering.
Determine the goals and objectives of the waste plan, for example around collection and forms of treatment.
Develop three to four alternative scenarios for how the waste system could look, based on the goals that were set. The desired scenario must then be chosen by the local stakeholders and authorities.
Develop the waste master plan, based on the chosen scenario.
Plan the implementation of the plan, and develop an action plan.
Monitor implementation and execution of the waste master plan.