Sustainable Waste Management in Bangalore, India: A Case Study of Environmental Support Group’s Interventions

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True sustainability, while seemingly a pipe dream, is attainable only through complete cooperation at all levels of government. From the ground-up, decentralization approach, this means that ward committees in Bangalore must begin to operate together, and must take care of their own waste. At the same time, the Bruhat Bangalore MahanagaraPalike must fully support 25 wards and ward committees, and do their best to ensure both producer and consumer responsibility. Moving forward, the biggest challenge will likely be changing the culture surrounding waste in Bangalore. The influx of consumerist culture, coupled with one-time use items such as soda and water bottles, plates, utensils, etc., as well as tetra-packs, lead to grave accumulations of waste. With the interventions of Environmental Support Group, Bangalore has been improving its waste management policies for the past few decades. The formation of wards and ward committees has greatly improved the condition of waste in Bangalore, and although much remains to be done, there is also much to be proud of. Much research remains to be done into the successes of segregating waste. How much waste is segregated properly? Do bulk generators follow the guidelines set out for them, which are different from residential and other generators? What is the reason more people are not more supportive, or more aware, of the waste management issues affecting Bangalore? These questions, and more, must be answered and critically envisioned before more work can be done towards truly sustainable waste management. Although Environmental Support Group and I worked well together, there were shortcomings and gaps in my research. For example, since I needed about a week to get caught up on the current state of affairs surrounding waste management in Bangalore, that only left about another week to conduct field research. Given more time, I likely would have been able to complete Environmental Support Group’s original goal of helping to profile one of the wards with my co-intern, Sara Carson. In addition, although this independent field research paper is a case study of Environmental Support Group, it likely would have been insightful to reach out to other non-governmental organizations working in waste management to see their points of view. 26 For future research on this topic, it might be astute to work with Pourakarmikas and/or rag pickers, and to visit a biomethanization plant, a composting center, or perhaps even a highranking official from the Bruhat Bangalore MahanagaraPalike, to learn about their opinions on this topic. Keeping all of these shortcomings in mind, there are still themes/lessons to be learned from this study. First, “sustainable” waste management is somewhat of a misnomer; if you’re generating waste in the first place, can it truly be sustainable? What’s important moving forward is minimizing the waste generated and the impact that that waste has on the environment. Critically analyzing consumerist and capitalist cultures is necessary in order to manage waste more sustainably, and the solution to waste management isn’t rooted solely in science or engineering; new, more efficient waste treatment facilities will certainly be of great assistance to the issue, but a holistic approach incorporating STEM and social science is necessary. As Environmental Support Group has shown, educating and involving the community can have affirmative impacts, and are a model for cities with similar issues.