Tag Archives: Kalpana Kar


Garbage and the city

On January 18, Kalpana Kar took a Practice Track session for B.CLIP students on waste and its management. Ms Kar is a prominent resident of Bangalore who has been a part of the Bangalore Agenda Task Force earlier and now leads the cause of a ‘Kasa Mukta’ (waste free) Bangalore, a campaign with the city corporation that strives for a clean city.

Ms Kar gave students perspectives on four broad areas: understanding waste and its categories; waste management examples from across the world; the context in India and Bangalore; and key players in the game. Some excerpts follow.

Different cities have found their own solutions for managing waste, from conversion to energy in Sweden to recycling in Singapore and London to use as road material elsewhere, all solutions suited to local constraints such as land availability, presence of a shoreline and other factors. What they do have in common is the notion that unsegregated waste neither has any value nor is it amenable for easy and safe disposal.

There is a strong role of markets to play in the waste management sector, where the role of government is be an enabling force. Segregation of waste into various categories and sub-categories not only makes disposal easier, but also creates value. Even in a city like Bangalore where currently most people do not segregate waste, it is quite rare to find milk covers, PET bottles or cardboard boxes lying mixed with garbage heaps. This is because there is already a value chain and a market for these items and people readily resell them for a profit and they get reused in various ways. The challenge is to form similar value chains for several other waste products, that incentivises their segregation. Tetrapack is a good example of a company that has done just this – where the multi-material laminate can be reused as construction material and private agencies have developed around the same. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is another idea along these lines that awaits exploration.

Unfortunately, city contracts on waste management are more often transport contracts rather than garbage contracts. Contractors are not evaluated or paid based on how clean they keep their zone of operation, but paid on the number of truckloads of garbage they can bring to the landfill sites. Subsequently, there are perverse incentives for contractors to not segregate garbage, as segregation leads to lower weights and volumes. Restructuring garbage contracts, amending archaic laws and building capacity within the BBMP are essential components of going towards a Kasa Mukta city.

Ms Kar also remarked on the public ignorance on a range of garbage-related issues. Even amongst a group of educated and motivated residents, it is difficult to get accurate estimates of say how much waste their own households generate.

This compounds into a range of ‘guestimates’ on even how much waste the city as a whole generates, and of what types.

For more on Kasa Mukta visit wakeupcleanup.in and take a look at their slides.