Solid Waste

Practising zero waste management in Vellore, Tamil Nadu

Author: P Amudha
Urbanisation brings prosperity but at the same time creates environmental problems like pollution, accumulation of solid waste and poor sanitation. Use of tetrapacks, plastic plates, cups and bags, tin cans and similar throw-away items has increased in the last decade as has the amount of organic waste. In many Indian states, rural areas are fast catching up with urban areas in generating solid waste. Lack of proper waste collection, segregation and management systems and poor sanitary conditions in both urban and rural areas are aggravating health problems. In this context, solid waste management is an area of challenge and of innovation for urban planners and city corporations. Small and big pilots, with different degrees of sustainability and success, are operational in many parts of the country. A zero waste management (ZWM) project by NGO Exnora Green Cross and the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA), initially piloted with UNICEF, in Tamil Nadu’s Vellore district is an example of a successful solid waste management programme and its benefits.

ZWM is a system of managing solid wastes that strives for maximum waste recovery through recycling and reuse, aiming at zero waste generation.
    • The system’s strength lies in segregation of waste at the source leading to maximum recovery of resources, minimization of waste and reduction in area required for storing and composting.
    • It minimizes pollution of ground water and air by doing away with disposal of wastes at dumpsites and landfills.
    • Zero waste management integrates the informal recycling sector (ragpickers and waste collectors) into the solid waste management system providing opportunities for income generation.

Exnora Green Cross, supported by UNICEF, initiated a pilot project on solid waste management in a ward of Vellore municipality in 2000. The project was then piloted in rural areas of Kaniyampadi...