Zero Waste Cities

Zero Waste Cities

by | Sep 17, 2018 | 1 comment

The Zero Waste Cities campaign, introduced with the support of GAIA (Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives), has so far been implemented in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, and took initiatives to expand to Thrissur, Kalamassery and Nedumangad. Thiruvananthapuram, having been the starting point for the campaign in the state, has seen the greatest progress with regard to its implementation. Thanal has made major contributions to the campaign, mainly by way of technical support and awareness initiatives. Thiruvananthapuram set the example (as far as Kerala was concerned) by introducing a decentralised waste management system in 2011. In 2018, the state capital was established as a city well on its way to becoming truly free of waste; within the next two years, significant progress was made in the other places of focus too.

Elements of the Zero Waste model include brand audits, perception studies, waste characterisation studies and occasional clean-ups, all of which focus mainly on single-use plastic. Brand audits were carried out on a large scale, with samples taken from houses in each ward of each city. Waste (mainly plastic) was mainly collected for analysis from three kinds of sites, including domestic sources, the other two being beaches (in fact, one beach clean-up drive conducted by Thanal in the early stages of this campaign covered different parts of the entire Kerala coastline separated by gaps of 10 km), ecologically sensitive zones. In addition, Thanal performed a study of plastic litter along National Highway 66 (again, leaving 10 km-wide gaps between each collection site). Irrespective of the source of the waste, however, the methods used to analyse and categorise it were the same.

Along with studies, audits and reports, Thanal also helped educate the public about the campaign and its necessity, as well as involve them (particularly the youth) in clean-up drives. In fact, in each of the four cities, units of the Plastic Task Force (which, on principle, consists of youngsters) have been formed. Perception studies also enabled direct contact with the general public, allowing one to gauge their awareness of proper waste management principles and methods. Getting the public to participate in such activities has gone a long way in getting the intended message across to them and in raising the level of enthusiasm and support they show for the campaign. In addition, communicating with business establishments has provided a different perspective from which to view the problem of waste generation; during the peak of the COVID crisis, Thanal conducted a survey to review the rise in single-use plastic waste generated by supermarkets and medical stores, particularly the latter.

The campaign has also sought to bring attention to the role of Waste pickers and the value they hold. Thanal, therefore, has spearheaded a number of initiatives with that very aim in mind, such as the creation of a Waste-pickers’ directory and the distribution of safety equipment kits to them. Providing them with the required support, technical or financial, will help them increase the already large contribution they make to the waste management process.