A couple of weeks ago, Durga and I set out to audit the waste generated at Dr. P. Venkataramana Higher Secondary School. The school is a major contributor to waste stockpiled at the Greenways community. To our surprise, the management of Dr. P. Venkataramana Higher Secondary School agreed to our suggestion to make the campus free of waste. We planned a waste audit to determine different waste streams, their quantum, and current disposal practices at the school. Based on the audit, CAG made simple recommendations to enable the school to comply with the Solid Waste Management Rules of 2016 which mandates in-situ management of waste for bulk waste producers.

CAG undertook the audits from January 8 to 10, 2018, to determine average waste generated on normal curricular working days, and on January 12, 2018, to assess the waste generated during a special event. We were joined by a group of four student volunteers, all of whom exhibited tremendous energy and enthusiasm.

Methodology

For the first step of the audit, we collected waste from the admin block, hostel, canteen, and classrooms. Waste from each of these spots was tossed into larger bins that had name tags. The team then sifted through the garbage bins, to sort waste into three streams:-

  1. Organic waste – Food waste (cooked and uncooked food), horticultural waste;

  2. Recyclable waste – Metal pieces, paper, cardboard, milk packets, aluminium foil, PET bottles, and any plastic that will be accepted in a scrap shop or by the kabadiwalla

  3. Rejects – Sanitary waste and residual waste; sanitary waste includes diapers, sanitary napkins, condoms and residual waste comprises multi-layered plastic laminates or any such material that cannot be composted or otherwise recycled.


Image 1: Waste separated into different streams

 

Image 2: Plastic polluters on campus

 

All categories of waste were weighed and data simultaneously entered. We found that the school generates an average of 65 kg of waste every day, of which more than half (35 kg) is food waste. Nearly 5 kg of recyclable materials get mixed with 5 kg of rejects on a daily basis. The remaining waste is horticultural waste (20 kg). All of the above are disposed into the local community compactor bin.   

      Image 3: Multilayered milk cartons

 

Suggestions

Since organic waste accounted for the bulk of the waste generated, we suggested that the school consider composting it on the campus. This would mean that they could divert an estimated 13 tonnes of waste from entering landfills in one year. Composting or biomethanation to generate biogas creates an opportunity to extract value from organic waste, which is currently being disposed of mindlessly. The compost and biogas can be used by the school for gardening and cooking respectively, thereby closing the loop of the waste cycle. Recyclables such as paper and plastic waste can be stored and sold in sizable portions to local kabadiwalas /scrap shops/ paper marts. The money earned can be used to maintain the compost unit. As for the remainder, such as multi-layered plastic, thin film plastic, and single-use plastic, it is important to reduce the use of such products and consequently adopt eco-friendly options. Apart from promoting eco-friendly options, students should be encouraged to switch to reusable utensils such as steel cutlery and carry-boxes for takeaways to cut down on multi-layered plastic laminates. This practice can be followed by the school management during school events.

Since the waste audit, the school has undertaken measures to ensure that organic food waste is composted. In addition, the students have taken the initiative to reuse old newspapers in place of brown book covers layered with thin film plastic.

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