An Informal Model of Waste Management Blossoms in Bangalore

Without the wealth for recycling, Indian cities like Bangalore rely on informal traders to collect and sell recyclable materials. Could this tech hub provide a model of trash disposal for cities in the developing and developed world alike?

1 minute read

October 17, 2012, 6:00 AM PDT

By Jessica Hsu


"In India," says Poonam Kasturi, "we're famous for keeping our homes clean and our cities dirty." But the issue of waste management became a hot button issue in Bangalore this past August when city employees went on a strike and landfills shut down. "Even the wealthier corners of the city were faced with the unpleasant realities of moved rubbish," writes Mark Bergen, "And considerable public health concerns, particularly of the spread of dengue fever, persisted after the workers returned."

Indian cities do not generally have the funds available for recycling programs, but informal traders "process around a third of the 3,500 tons of waste generated in the city per day." After the strike, Bangaloreans turned to these informal recyclers for information on how to better manage and compost their trash. "Informal recycling is a huge plus," says Sandya Narayanan, "which we don't have anywhere else in the world." She believes that this model could possibly serve as an example for other emerging nations.

"As it is now," states Bergen, "the city's model is far from ideal." The informal traders work at their own risk with few safety and environmental regulations. "Yet the movement to educate on safety and segregation and limit the waste shipped to the city's landfills is gaining speed."

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