Waste segregation goes for a toss
SPOT CHECK Waste separated at source compacted together at transfer station and sent to landfill
› Rich organic matter is being clubbed with a variety of soft and hard plastic paper, cartons, cloth, dirt and sludge. RUCHIKA SETHI, green activist and › founding member of CFCA We have installed material recovery technology for secondary segregation...we found that segregation is not possible beyond a point. › A AGGARWAL, CEO, Ecogreen We have planned to make the segregation happen and are now putting Ecogreen on notice to follow the waste management rules. Y YADAV, MCG commissioner
No segregation of waste is being carried out at Gurugram’s three transfer stations at Atul Kataria Chowk, Beriwala Bagh and DLF-5, revealed multiple spot visits by Hindustan Times over the last month.
It was also found that waste, which had been previously segregated at source (by RWAs and waste collectors) was being compacted together before being landfilled. Workers at all three transfer stations confirmed that mixed waste was being compacted and then dumped at Bandhwari landfill.
“At present, rich organic matter is being clubbed with a variety of soft and hard plastic paper, small carton boxes, cloth, dirt, sludge, sanitary waste, broken glass and other trash at the transfer stations,” said Ruchika Sethi, a founding member of Citizens for Clean Air (CFCA), an activist group that has been advocating for lawful waste management in Gurugram.
This current practice at the transfer stations, according to environmentalists and experts, is in violation of the Solid Waste Management Rules, notified by the ministry of environment and forests in 2016. The rules state that waste must first be segregated at source and then at a waste collection centre (such as a transfer station). This process is meant to ensure that wet, organic waste and dry, sanitary waste are separated, after which they can then be utilised for different purposes. While organic waste is to be composted, dry waste can either be converted into refusederived fuel (RDF) and used in waste-to-energy (WTE) plants, or landfilled.
“In fact, by compacting waste that was segregated, they are undoing a good practice that should be promoted among RWAs,” said Rekha Singh, an approved environment expert from Quality Council of India (MoEF & CC) and a specialist in municipal waste management.
Ecogreen Energy, which is the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram’s concessionaire for waste management, recently set up the three transfer stations in the city, as part of its integrated waste management plan for Gurugram.
At a press conference on August 1, Ecogreen Energy’s CEO, Ankit Aggarwal, mentioned that the purpose of the transfer stations was to prevent further open dumping of waste and to facilitate secondary segregation of waste, before sending it to Bandhwari for landfilling.
Aggarwal on Saturday confirmed that mixed waste was being compacted at the transfer stations, and that previously segregated waste was being mixed together. He said, “At the transfer stations, we have installed MRT (material recovery technology) for secondary segregation of waste. However, we have found that it is not possible to segregate waste beyond a certain point using this technology. So, at the moment, we are compacting mixed waste and dumping it at Bandhwari,” he said.
Aggarwal added that better segregation technology would be installed at the Bandhwari site by August 2019, after which “waste would be segregated using a mechanised process into organic (compostable) and refuse-derived fuel. The organic portion will be composted and RDF will be used for power generation.” However, until then, compacted mixed waste will continue to be dumped there.
Singh warned against the practice. “It is extremely hard to mechanically segregate waste that is left in a mixed state for so long,” she said.
Singh also explained that dumping mixed waste in Bandhwari, as is being done, would exacerbate the leachate problem, which has caused widespread damage to the surrounding ecology, and to human health as well. “Organic matter is moist and leads to the formation of leachate. It should not be landfilled in any instance, for any period of time. The current practice is not correct,” she added.
Some activists alleged that segregation is not being done to ensure financial gain, as the agency is paid ₹1,200 per tonne.
Ecogreen Energy has denied these allegations. “Wet waste, whether compacted or not, will be sent to the plant as composting will happen at a centralized location only.”
Yashpal Yadav, MCG commissioner, said, “We have planned to make the segregation happen and are now putting Ecogreen on notice to follow the SWM rules.”
■ The practice of compacting waste by mixing it at the transfer stations, according to environmentalists and experts, is in violation of the Solid Waste Management Rules, notified by the ministry of environment and forests in 2016.