A sure-shot way to get people segregate waste?

How do you get recalcitrant residents to segregate their waste? A team of waste collectors and design students seem to have hit upon a scalable solution. Using a mobile app, waste collectors geotagged 250 households and rated the level of segregation. Within three months, more than three-fourths of the 250 households had achieved 100% segregation compliant to perfect segregation practices.

The Waste Samaritan initiative, a door-to-door waste monitoring solution, won the Reimagine Waste hackathon that was held at the Centre for Product Management and Design at IISc. in April 2016. With the support of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, it was decided to undertake a pilot in Domlur Layout, ward number 112, this year. As many as 250 households were part of the pilot. Since unique QR codes were given based on property IDs, in some cases multiple houses in one building came under one QR code. Thus 152 QR codes were monitored.

“When we started out, a majority of the 250 households did not segregate properly. Even if they separated paper and plastic as dry waste, they would be putting wet waste in plastic bin liners,” said Wisvesh B.S., who was part of the team that developed the solution.

The app allows pourakarmikas to take a picture of the waste collected and rate it. “If the segregation is good, they get five stars. This also helps raise awareness among residents. For instance, they may have got four stars if they used a plastic bin liner to put wet waste,” explained Manish Arora, assistant professor at CPDM, IISc.

Waste collectors working with the Dry Waste Collection Centre in Domlur were engaged in collecting data from households. “The moment the residents saw that the waste collectors were taking photographs of waste being collected from their house, they immediately started doing things as per rules,” said Mr. Wisvesh.

The pilot is nearing completion and within three months, they were able to achieve more than 75% high quality segregation rate in the 152 properties covered. Mr. Wisvesh is confident that the project is scalable, and if implemented across the city, could make a huge difference to the waste management problem the city faces.

Sarfaraz Khan, Joint Commissioner, Solid Waste Management, BBMP, said the civic body would bring out its Shuchi Mitra app, which will work on the lines of the Waste Samaritan initiative. “The Shuchi Mitra app will show precisely how much waste is generated and collected from each household. The software is ready and once we get all systems in place such as biometric attendance for pourakarmikas and GPS-enabled collection vehicles, we will be able to launch it in a big way,” said Mr. Khan.

(Originally published in The Hindu)

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