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Initiatives for Source Separation and Urban Organic Waste Reuse

The examples of actions for waste reduction noted here are not presented as success stories or "best practices," - these non-commercial examples are mostly very small-scale and dependent on international funds and volunteer work. They do, however, illustrate attempts to link waste reduction to: public-private partnerships, enterprise development, income generation, improved status of waste workers, consumer awareness and child education. The principles embodied in these efforts hold promise for local action for the reduction of solid wastes.

Most initiatives involve the separation and sale of common household materials, since these activities are usually "win-win" ones: householders make extra cash and waste traders get their raw materials, while employment is generated and quantities of solid wastes to be collected by the city authorities are reduced. Relatively little has been done to tackle the contamination of urban organic wastes, or to enable and improve customary reuse of decomposed wastes.

NGO-organized neighbourhood collection systems based on source separation, sometimes including decentralized composting or vermi-composting.

These are largely projects of NGOs and community groups, often receiving some international assistance or advice. In the case of the Clean-Green Project in Metro Manila, households are asked to separate dry reusables and recyclables and sell these to registered and supervised buyers working for waste traders (Comacho 1994; Lapid 1997). This represents a revival of declining practices of sale from households.

In India, where the sale of superior materials is still extensive, some source separation projects aim to for wet-dry separation. Householders are given plastic bags or containers free or at low cost. Door-to-door collection is organized. Householders are asked to pay a small fee for this service. Street people or other unemployed persons are engaged for the collection, and given the right to sell the dry wastes. Bangalore has several groups working in this way: Clean Environs, Waste Wise (Mythri Foundation) and the Centre for Environmental Education. The Bangalore City Corporation has cooperated in allocating space in local parks for composting and vermi-composting. (Furedy 1992a, Shah and Sambaraju 1997). NGO projects for primary collection are in some cases encouraging source separation, for instance, some of the Civic Exnora groups in Madras and Ahmedabad, Rotary clubs in Bombay (Coad 1997; Ramkumar 1998).

The numerous projects in India have inspired NGOs in places like Kathmandu. The Women's Environment Preservation Committee (WEPCO) in Lalitpur has waste reduction as its main objective. The group has obtained support from DANIDO for a pilot project on source separation and composting (Rajbhandari 1997: 115-16). It is already servicing 500 households with primary collection. Another NGO, Unnati Adhar Kendra, collects wastes from 200 households; the sweepers sort out the recyclables and sell them to waste traders and the organic waste is composted. The organization sells 1200-1500 kg of compost monthly (Rajbhandari 1997: 89). This is not exactly separation at source; it is, rather, "sorting near to source."

Private or municipal compost making at or near dump sites

The Cau Dien plant, a government operation, is still functioning in Hanoi, although only at about 50% capacity (Gregoire 1996). The Karnataka Compost Development Corporation operates the only plant still functioning (in an adapted low-tech manner) in India of those built in the mid-1970s. It obtains MSW free by an agreement with the Bangalore City Corporation. There are problems of quality control and marketing, but the business makes a profit and sells compost in three south Indian states. Some vermi-composting is done to produce compost for sale in florists. Two more plants are planned for the Bangalore urban area. A private company in Bangalore --Terra Firma Biotechnics - is successfully marketing vermi-compost (Shah and Sambaraju 1997).

A frequently-cited example of an expanding private enterprise is Excel Industries, now operating in several Indian cities. The company has processed compost from MSW obtained from dump sites without charge, by arrangement with municipal corporations in several cities. The company, which produces fertilizer has good marketing expertise (Coad 1997, Selvam 1997).

Assistance to waste dealers and recycling industries to access more recyclables (NGO-organized, with some government support)

Leonarda Comacho of the Metro Manila Council for the Women's Balikatan Movement (MMWBM) began working with waste traders in San Juan, Metro Manila in the 1980s. The traders (called junk shops) were assisted to form co-operatives and thus access business loans. MMWBM guided the traders in registering their buyers with the police, equipping them with uniforms as 'eco-aides,' and undertook neighbourhood awareness drives to link the traders with nearby sources of materials. International recognition of this initiative led to government support, initially from the President's Office. The Dept. of Trade and Industry and Dept. of Social Welfare and Development are preparing soft loans and livelihood assistance packages to enhance employment opportunities for eco-aides (Furedy 1990; Lapid 1997).

The Centre for Advanced Philippine Studies (CAPS), a consulting firm, created the Waste Management Resource and Information Centre in Manila in 1992. It has developed a computerized data base of waste dealers, recyclers, resource persons and agencies. This systematic information has allowed dealers and manufacturers to link up for optimal trading. The data base is also serves educational campaigns (Lapid 1997).

Corporate sector support to source separation initiatives [Bangalore, Ahmedabad, State Bank of India]

The growing interest of corporations in sponsoring environmental improvement is providing funds to NGOs running source separation and primary collection schemes. In Bangalore, Bombay (Mumbai)and Ahmedabad, branches of national banks such as the State Bank of India, have provided collection carts and other equipment to projects of Centre for Environmental Education, Waste Wise and Civic Exnora (Furedy 1992a; Coad 1997: G-2.4-2.5; Civic Exnora 1998).

In Java, the Indonesia Plastics Recycling Association (AIDUPI), formed in 1993, represents itself as "a forum for the plastics recycling industry and government to come together and develop joint strategies to deal with the social and environmental issues caused by plastic waste in Indonesia" (Listyawan 1997, p. 102). The organization is pressing for the coding of plastics, the separation of plastic wastes by generators, and has proposed to assist wastepicker co-operatives in collecting separated materials from households.

Low-tech sorting plants drawing on neighbourhoods practising source separation

Western-model sorting plants have not been successful in most cities, but there are now attempts to operate plants with more manual sorting and obtaining waste from neighbourhoods where householders co-operate in more thorough separation of dry and wet wastes. One such experiment is in Santa Maria, Philippines (Lardinois 1997).

School separation and composting programs for public education

Many schools hold drives to gather recyclables to raise money for school programs. Where these are combined with education on waste problems, there is a potential for lasting impact at the household level. Composting of organics generated in schools, especially residential schools, is often combined with education. Examples are the Good Shepherd Convent and Miriam College in Manila (Lapid 1997). Malaysian city councils are encouraging Parents and Teachers Associations to form school "recycling societies" (Noor 1997).

Municipal source separation programs in more developed cities

Apart from Japan and Korea, which I count as northern with respect to urban waste management, the only country where several local authorities have instituted source separation and collection programs is Malaysia. The record of successful extension of pilot projects is uneven, but Taiping Municipal Council has 10,000 households participating in separating glass, paper and metals since 1993 and Petaling Jaya has done extensive research and pilot work for an ambitious programme which includes school clubs organized by Parents and Teachers Associations, and separate collection by private contractors appointed by the municipal council (Noor 1997).

Institutional research and promotion of waste reduction, source separation and recycling

The Thai Packing Centre of the Thai Institute of Science and Technology Research is doing research on plastics to facilitate recycling, specifically on classification and coding systems. The Institute has produced numerous posters promoting separation and sale of household materials (Muttamara 1997, p. 47).

NGO-based public campaigns for awareness of waste problems (with assistance from aid programs, local government, corporate sector)

The Magic Eyes campaign of the Thai Environment and Community Development Association in Bangkok has been very active in school programs related to recycling awareness (World Media Foundation 1996). It has influenced the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority to promote recycling. The TECD approach of extensive corporate sponsorship has been adopted by environmental campaigns in some Latin American cities.

The Green Forum Philippines is advocating "back-to-the-bayong," bayong being the traditional shopping basket, to minimize the consumption of plastic shopping bags.

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