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 Solid Waste Management at IIT Bombay

Solid waste management or SWM – a rather popular buzzword, involves activities and processes relating to waste management from its generation to disposal. With this article, we hope to ignite thought and foster discussion on the status of SWM activities on campus and garner support, spread awareness to make meaningful strides in expanding the scope of these activities.

IIT Bombay has many state-of-the-art facilities like an on-campus biogas plant, compaction units, waste segregation units, and 700 workers dedicated to making the campus more sustainable.

 

Our 550-acre campus houses about 17,000 residents who collectively generate around 6.2 metric tonnes of waste every day. The Public Health Office (PHO) is the body entrusted with the mammoth task of daily waste collection, treatment, and disposal. Mr. Pankaj P. Bhosale (Public health officer) manages the PHO and a team of 13 coordinators, 60 supervisors, and 640 cleaning staff. A whopping 82% of this 6.2 MT solid waste is wet waste, consisting of food waste generated from the mess and institute eateries, followed by 1.1 MT of dry waste, including plastic, paper, cardboard, metals, and discarded glass. Around 27% (300 kg) of this dry waste is recycled, and the rest is sent to a compaction unit on campus.

 

Over 5 tonnes of waste is collected daily by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) and sent to a dump yard, with only 350 kg of wet waste sent for composting. Our institute also has a biogas plant that processes 2 tonnes of wet waste per day; however, it is not functioning at maximum capacity. Only a small percentage (~35%) of wet waste collected from hostels and institute eateries gets processed in the institute biogas plant.

Many universities across the globe are aiming to boost their diversion rate (the portion of waste not sent to the landfill) by adopting various waste management practices. Is the IITB campus also working towards the same goal? How are we as students making our contribution?

Insight conducted a survey to gauge the awareness of the student population towards Solid Waste Management, with those questions in mind. The survey numbers showed that 98% of the 205 students surveyed expressed their willingness to contribute towards the sustainable development of our institute. Yet, more than half of them were unaware of the Institute’s waste management practices and their roles as individuals in contributing to the same. The Sustainability cell, Team Zero waste, and Hostel Affairs council have taken initiatives to tackle just that and achieve their goal of making the institute a “Zero-Waste-to-Landfill” campus. 

 

Waste Management Initiatives by Student Body

In 2021, the student bodies at IITB undertook several initiatives to manage the collected waste efficiently. Team Zero Waste helped increase the efficiency of the biogas plant by segregating lemon peels from wet waste and converting them into a beneficial cleaning agent. The pictures of the cleaning agent are shown below.

Lemon as a cleaning agent from the Biogas plant

The rest of the wet waste got diverted to the cowshed as cattle feed, saving approximately 100kgs of green waste from going to landfills.

 

Team Zero Waste has started a recycling drive to collect dry waste generated across our entire campus. The Public Health Office (PHO) collected and segregated 70-80 Kgs of plastics, cardboard, and paper per day in January and February. They send the soft plastics to Project Mumbai (an NGO dedicated to plastic recycling) for making furniture and the other items to the ladies of  Stree Mukti Sangathan,” an NGO that sells waste. 


Recycling drive for dry waste on the campus

Segregation of menstrual waste has been started by introducing red-colored dustbins. It made the separation activity easier and helped improve the working conditions of PHO staff.

 

Suggestions for Student Community:

 

By adopting basic principles of Solid Waste Management,

1) The 3Rs: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

2) Segregation at source: 61% of the total students surveyed are staying at home and are practicing segregation by waste type (biodegradable vs. non-biodegradable). An example of this is separating wet peels from plastic cans. 

 

Suggestions for the Institute:

 

1) Scaling up SWM: 

It is essential to scale up SWM activities on the campus to inch closer to waste sustainability, by encouraging collaborative action between students, student bodies, and the PHO, combined with assistance from the institute in the form of funds.

 

2) Educating students and individuals through campaigns and workshops: 

Three out of four students surveyed were unaware of how their waste collector disposes of collected waste, and one in three of them received no training on waste disposal practices. Hence, students have the propensity to contribute to effective SWM but lack the precise know-how. To channel this propensity better, frequent webinars, workshops, and campaigns could be conducted to spread awareness and impart the necessary know-how of SWM.

 

Footnote:

  1. 205 students were surveyed for this article
  2. All data used was provided courtesy of Team Zero Waste
  3. Illustration credits: Bhawna Bharti
  4. Flow diagram of MSW in IITB Campus corresponds to Sep. 2015
  5. Visit http://www.tatacentre.iitb.ac.in/ecobin/zonewisechart/ for visualization of wet and dry waste in various locations of our institute