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India's Rally for Garbage Free Cities on International Zero Waste Day

March 29, 2023: In line with the theme for International Day of Zero Waste 2023 - ‘Achieving Sustainable and Environmentally Sound Practices of Minimizing and Managing Waste’, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), Government of India organized Swachhotsav - International Day of Zero Waste: Rally for Garbage Free Cities in New Delhi on March 29, 2023 in collaboration with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), India Country Office and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in India, as part of India’s celebration of the first International Day of Zero Waste 2023.

The event was attended by over 350 delegates including Mayors, Commissioners, Mission Directors, Business and Tech experts, women & youth leading sanitation, technical institutions, development partners, etc.

At the inaugural ceremony, Ms. Roopa Misra, JS-SBM, MoHUA complemented partners, Swachhta Doots, laying out India’s action plan for end-to-end waste management for solid and liquid waste.

Ms. Roopa Mishra, Joint Secretary and Mission Director, SBM (U), MoHUA, during her inaugural address at the event

UN-Habitat India led the Panel 1 on Circularity and Garbage Free Cities. Ms. Swati Singh Sambyal, Waste Management Specialist, UN-Habitat India, moderated the panel that discussed circular systems adopted by Indian cities.


Mr. Rohit Monserrate, Mayor, Panaji shared the success story of the city-Panaji generates over 18,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste (MSW) each year and is moving towards 16-way segregation which is applicable to housings, hotels, restaurants, government departments and government residential complexes. The city has around 100 decentralised compost pits, three centralised composting facilities, and a centralised material recovery facility which is linked with dry waste collection centre’s in each zone. He further shared details about the ‘Shop With Your Waste Campaign ‘as a part of which waste can be bartered for grocery items at 20 earmarked grocery stores.


Ms. Pratishtha Mamgain, Commissioner, Municipal Corporation, Ambikapur, Chhattisgarh shared that the city generates 45 metric tonnes of solid waste per day. Since implementing the Solid Liquid Resource Management (SLRM) in 2015, the landfill has been converted into a sanitation park. Ms. Mamgain also stated that 447 women Self-Help Groups (SHGs) from 48 wards collect household waste door-to-door every day. There are no dumping grounds or community dustbins in the city. Garbage separation begins at home with the red and green boxes provided to each household. The red bin is for inorganic waste such as paper, cardboard, plastic, electric wires, and so on, while the green bin is for organic waste such as vegetables, garden leaves, food, and so on. Sanitary pads and diapers are wrapped in paper and placed in a red box, and then buried for permanent disposal. For the SLRM project, several training programmes have been organised for SHG women hailing from the weaker section. 

Panel 1 discussed circularity and garbage free cities

Mr. Navnath Wath, State Mission Director (SMD), SBM-U, Maharashtra shared about the HARIT Model. HARIT is an application developed and designed for a user-friendly Supply Chain Management ICT platform using Blockchain technology for compost value chain. It is available online and as an Android application. The application It is not limited to any geography, language, or social sector. With minimal changes, HARIT application can be adapted to help the rural population in any part of India in any language to cover issues related to soil health by encouraging use of organic manures like compost.


Mr. Sampath Kumar, SMD, SBM-U, Andhra Pradesh shared about solid waste management model in Vijayawada. The city is divided into 64 sanitary divisions and municipal wards. Around 516.6 tonne per day (TPD) of municipal solid waste is generated (excluding construction waste) of which approximately 275.5 TPD is biodegradable waste, 239.9 TPD non-biodegradable waste and 1.16 TPD is domestic hazardous waste. All 64 wards of Vijayawada currently have source segregation. Mr. Kumar highlighted the biggest challenge of the State when it comes to dealing with waste is transportation − bringing waste to the processing plant.


Dr. Ruby Makhija, a Zero Waste Influencer and as the Secretary of Navjeevan Vihar RWA (a zero-waste colony of 250 households) has supported the RWA to attain 100% waste segregation at source and 100% wet waste composting for the last 4 years saving nearly 5 lakh kilograms of waste from going to the landfill site. The RWA has adopted unique initiatives such as a utensil bank, weekly collection drives for miscellaneous waste streams such as old clothes, shoes, toys, books, E-waste, newspapers – any discard that residents don’t need. This model is also being replicated in other wards in Delhi. Additionally, under the Vikalp-Borrow a bag campaign, also led by Dr. Makhija’s NGO, consumers can borrow a bag from Vikalp stalls for a deposit of Rs 20. They can return the bag across any of these 350 stalls and taking back their refund of Rs 20. A QR Code stitched to each bag takes the scanner to the webpage of Vikalp where you get the addresses of all Vikalp stalls. Most bags are stitched by women SHG providing livelihood to these ladies. Additionally, Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) has provided full support to this campaign.


Ms. Nayana Premnath, an eco-Youtuber and influencer shared her zero-waste journey. She further shared how the city of Bengaluru's complete ban on the use of plastic has changed residents' shopping habits, and she highlighted the need for individual actions to become a zero-waste society.


Ms. Sambyal concluded the panel 1 by mentioning that zero waste day is a reminder of our collective action to adopt zero waste lifestyle as individuals, transform to zero waste communities, become zero waste cities, and meet the objectives of the Swachh Bharat Mission - to become a Garbage Free Nation.


Panel 2 moderated by Ms. Gayatri Raghwa, UNEP discussed the role of Women and Youth for Garbage Free Cities. Ms. Durgesh Nandi, Additional Secretary and Additional Mission Director, SBM-U, Odisha shared about the unique initiative the state has taken to integrate transgender communities to solid and liquid waste management (SLWM). ‘Women SHG, transgender groups and rag pickers are engaged in end-to-end value change of SLWM. They are now treated as change agents for decentralised waste management in urban local bodies.’, he added.


Mr. Siddhartha Jain, Additional Commissioner, Indore, Madhya Pradesh gave a brief introduction about the city− Indore is a 7-star GFC, over 1200 TPD of MSW is collected everyday − 60% wet waste and 40 % dry waste. The USP of the city is waste segregation and waste is segregated into 6 streams- wet, plastic, non-plastic, hazardous, electronic, and sanitary waste. The segregated wet waste goes to the bio CNG plant, where 17 tonnes of bio CNG is produced daily used to running city buses, also 100 tonnes of compost is produced daily which is sent to 40-50 villages.

Panel 2 discussed the role of women and youth in garbage free cities

About 400-450 TPD of plastic and dry waste goes to a recovery facility having automated optical sensors that separate the plastic waste into six types of plastic and then these plastics are granulated and sent to various producers for the required due diligence. ‘We are generating 4 crores royalty per year for Indore Municipal Corporation- 2.5 crore/year from the biogas plant and 1.5 crore/year from the material recovery plant’, he added.


Dr. N. Satyanarayana, SMD, SBM-U, Telangana shared that in Telangana Nagardeepikas (women from SHG) are engaged for promoting source segregation and ensuring 100% door to door collection. They are the Swachhata Agents at community/ward level and have committed to play key role in promoting sanitation and make cities garbage free. The state has also introduced 10% rebate in the property tax for colonies practicing home composting.


Dr. Shanthi Tummala, SWRTM, Bengaluru shared about the Cheela Mela, an innovative approach to reduce consumption of plastic carry bags. Dr. Tummala said under the initiative we request people to come to Lalbagh Botanical Garden (famous in Bengaluru) and encourage them to bring their old, torn, and faded clothes on weekends and public holidays. Women welfare groups convert these old clothes into cloth bags. ‘The idea of not buying new cloth bags to encourage ban of plastic bags and converting your old, torn clothes into cloth bags is two problems and one solution. This reduces plastic consumption and textile waste is redirected.’, she added.


Dr. Tummula also shared about the Ruthuprema or Period Love initiative in Telangana. The purpose of this program is to encourage healthy and sustainable menstruation practices among women and girls and minimize menstrual waste. Women are involved in Ruthu Prema, they are the influencers and they are the beneficiaries − under the programme, around 30,000 menstrual cups and 20,000 biodegradable pads have been distributed free of cost in villages and urban localities of the Siddipet district. Further, as many as 720 village organisations including SHG leaders, 130 women panchayat secretaries, 650 anganwadi workers and 400 teachers have been engaged in promoting the Ruthu Prema campaign across the district.


Panel 3 moderated by GIZ India discussed the role of Business and Tech for Garbage Free Cities. The discussion focused on the various technologies that are helping cities achieve garbage-free status and become zero-waste cities.

Panel 3 discussed the need for business and tech for garbage free cities

Mr. Shridhar Rao, Co-founder, Green Banana Pvt. Ltd. discussed about the silica plastic waste bricks (SPWB) − a sustainable building brick made from recycling foundry dust/sand waste (80%) and mixed plastic waste (20%) as a sustainable alternative to clay bricks.

Ms. Jyoti Arora, Partner, Daily Dump shared the Daily Dump journey, stating that the firm is a leader in composting products that are designed to change mindsets about waste and the ease of doing composting in India, with the main goal of reducing waste, improving material recovery, and enabling better livelihoods through the voluntary collective action of urban citizens. She underlined that Daily Dump products are being used by over 70,000 families, eliminating over 50,000 kgs of organic waste from landfills each day and returning over 112 tonnes of compost to peri-urban farmlands.


Ms. Tanya Roy shared about Plastic Fischer India, a social enterprise based in Germany that collects plastic waste from rivers to prevent it from reaching the ocean. The company's technologies are built from locally available materials and are manufactured by locals, allowing for scalability and low cost. This approach allows for repairs to be made quickly and costs to be kept low.


She pointed out that the business model of the enterprise is based on Plastic Footprint Compensation for businesses. The customer companies pay Plastic Fischer per ton collected and receive proof of the collection, sorting, and recycling/disposal process. Most of the collected plastic from rivers is single-use plastic. By efficiently sorting and reintroducing plastic into the supply chain and raising the recycling rate and preventing it from ending up in landfills, we can help to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the environment.


Mr. Rajiv Kumar underlined that the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) is a federal organisation that focuses on fostering and funding the growth of micro, small, and medium-sized firms (MSMEs), particularly those in the manufacturing and service sectors. Furthermore, SIDBI backs national climate change action plans and has taken steps to advance ethical practices, such as sustainable finance, energy efficiency, and greener manufacturing in the MSMEs sector, through both financial and non-financial support.


Ms. Sahar Mansoor, Founder, Bare Necessities, a one-stop shop for solutions offering zero-waste goods and services emphasized that businesses need to become innovative and socially responsible to overcome severe inefficiencies in waste management and production, distribution, and consumption.

Mr. Binay Kumar Jha, Director, SBM moderated the fireside chat with Mayors

This was followed by a fireside chat with Mayors moderated by Mr. Binay Kumar Jha, Director, SBM. The focus of this session was to highlight the success stories of various states, discuss best practices such as waste segregation processes, door-to-door waste collection and enhance role of women in waste management. It was also highlighted that earlier women workers were not willing to participate and work in the sector of solid waste management, as they perceived it to be unhygienic; however, this perception was broken when they were given not only the right equipment to tackle the waste but trained to see it as a resource.


The valedictory session was observed in the presence of Mr. Hardeep S. Puri, Hon’ble Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs, Mr. Manoj Joshi, Secretary, MoHUA, Ms. Roopa Mishra, JS-SBM and Mr. Rahul Kapoor, JS & MD, DAY-NULM.

Hon’ble Union Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs, Mr. Hardeep Singh Puri addressed the delegates at Swachhotsav - International Day of Zero Waste: Rally for Garbage Free Cities

Hon’ble Minister, Mr. Puri, reinforced on India’s commitment to the Lifestyle for Environment (LiFE) movement and urged everyone to become ‘Pro-Planet People’ by weaving in the concepts of ‘Waste to Wealth’ and circular economy in their lives. The minister also highlighted the role of women’s leadership in ensuring circularity of waste management and implementing a zero-waste approach turning waste into valuable resources. He stressed the need to upscale Self-help Groups to a professional level to ensure higher income generation for these groups. Further, from ‘Women-in garbage management’ to ‘women-led garbage free cities’ have shown desired results in Indian cities.


Mr. Shombi Sharp, UN Resident Coordinator, India in his special address highlighted the importance of the first annual International Day of Zero Waste as a call for a whole-of-society transformation in seeing and treating waste as the valuable resource it is through reducing, recycling, and reusing. He acknowledged India having made rapid gains in waste management with Missions like Swachh Bharat and Smart Cities, and now the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs’ Swachhotsav campaign highlighting the importance of women’s leadership in achieving clean cities.

‘We in the UN are privileged to work with the Government of India and partners to tackle the Triple Planetary Crisis through gender equality in waste management, sustainable urbanization and the circular economy’, said the UN Resident Coordinator in India

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