With the country under lockdown, life as we know it has come to a grinding halt. This has lead to significant change in everyday things like traffic on roads and waste generated in cities. With shopping malls, theatres, commercial establishments, retail stores, hotels, restaurants, public parks, and other public places closed, the pulsating heartbeat of the city is almost a flat line now. How has the lockdown affected solid waste generation across cities? Are we generating more or less waste?
The Chennai Corporation recently reported that the solid waste generated within city limits since the beginning of lockdown has dropped nearly by half. On average, 5,400 metric tonnes of solid waste is collected from the city of Chennai every day. However, data of trash collected on March 30 and 31 shows that this number has fallen to 3,000 metric tonnes. The Chennai Corporation is reported to have collected 3,665.3 metric tonnes on March 30, which is 33% less than usual. On March 31, this was further reduced by a small quantity and stood at 3,309.4 metric tonnes.
Speaking to TNM, an official from the Chennai Corporation pins this slide in quantity of garbage generated to the closing down of commercial establishments. â€śThis waste is mainly from houses. Since commercial establishments have closed, the quantity of waste generated has reduced,â€ť he says. According to information released by Chennai Corporation 14,291 conservancy workers are working on cleaning out garbage and keeping the city clean.
As for Bengaluru, the quantity of waste generated during this lockdown has surprised even the officials. Speaking to TNM, Sarfaraz Khan, Joint Commissioner, Solid Waste Management, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) says, â€śSince the start of the lockdown, there has been no significant decrease. I am myself surprised.â€ť
The average waste generated in Bengaluru from households on a daily basis is around 4,800 metric tonnes and there has been no significant drop in this amount in the city due to the lockdown.
Hyderabad, on the other hand, has shown a marginal drop by 1,000 to 1,500 metric tonnes. Srinivas Reddy, Executive Engineer, Solid Waste Management, Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), says Hyderabad, on average, generates 6,000 metric tonnes of solid waste. Since the lockdown, waste generation has dropped by 1,000- 1,500 metric tonnes.
The official, however, attributes this drop to the reduced number of sanitation workers on the field.
â€śWhile this is mainly because restaurants, food courts and major markets have shut, the collection efficiency has also dropped. Many of the sanitation workers are not collecting garbage over fear of COVID-19 spread,â€ť he says.
Stating that the Corporation has provided sanitation workers with masks and reusable gloves prior to the pandemic, he claims that most do not use it for ease of comfort. â€śWe have placed tenders to procure more masks and gloves,â€ť he says.
In the port city of Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, officials tell TNM that the waste generated on a regular day amounts only up to 1,000 metric tonnes. â€śThis would've fallen by around 100 to 200 metric tonnes now because the bulk waste generated by hotels, malls and restaurants have gone down since the lockdown. Also, people too are not doing much casual shopping so plastic waste at the domestic level has also reduced,â€ť says an official from the Corporation.
Kerala capital Thiruvananthapuram, on the other hand, is seeing much less trash compared to its southern neighbours. The public bins placed by the Corporation have no trash to collect since the lockdown began, says IP Binu, Health Standing Committee Chairman of the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation. â€śUsually, we collect garbage from public bins every day, but now, once it was cleaned after lockdown, there has been no need to clean it again since there is no garbage as people are staying off from public places,â€ť she says.
According to the officer, in Thiruvananthapuram, biodegradable waste is usually made into compost in most of the homes under the Corporation, using the compost bins distributed by the local body. â€śThere are also common aerobic bins in all wards. Those who donâ€™t have the facility to install individual compost bins, will take to their aerobic bins. The non-biodegradable garbage is collected by private agencies twice every month from houses. There is no considerable difference in this since the lockdown,â€ť Binu adds.
(With inputs from Soumya Chatterjee, Jahnavi Reddy, Neethu Joseph and Mithun MK)