Humanizing the Urban Waste Disposal Cycle

Overflowing garbage on the road sides, en number of unofficial dumps, no ownership of waste, absence of an end to end system, no segregation of waste, not knowing who deal with one’s waste and the social stigma attached to the waste pickers – these are some of the many common persistent urban garbage and waste management challenge faced by our society today. However, what appears to be even bigger a threat than the challenge is the absence of any ‘set-up’ or effectual organizational body to counter tackle these predicaments.

At DP5, a group comprising social workers, writers, policy makers, internet technologists got together during a breakout session to better understand the urban waste perils and  build an action plan for Civic Innovation Lab to address the issues by narrowing down on questions like what is the main (of the hour) challenge? What information enabled services can solve the challenge?  What are the kinds of government and crowd sourced data set that can contribute in counteracting the challenge? What social media platform can be helpful?

The panel started the session by listing the different types of challenges that engulf urban waste management issue primarily in Delhi. Issues like plastic trash being evident despite the ban, number of unofficial waste dumps all around the city and people unaware of their waste as to what can be recycled and what can’t, lack of information about disposing wastes like electronic, plastic, wet and dry waste and the side effects of incorrect waste dumping were brought to the fore.

Post brainstorming, the panel identified lack of public awareness regarding the social ecological footprint of the waste to be the most threatening challenge to waste management. Taking the session forward, the panel next sat down to chart out a structure of a Civic Innovation Lab that can effectively embark upon the problem.

The next set of dialogue involved classifying the kind of information enabled services offered by the lab that can contributing in solving the problem. Panelists opined that education and information dissemination about waste and its correct disposal can help people know their waste better. A record of people who throw the waste will help people know who deals with their waste and also serve the social stigma attached to the waste pickers. Public service announcements will provide a human touch and connect us better to those who our pick waste. A tracker of ecological footprint or a calculator of the waste disposed by each person or gamifying the knowledge of garbage and practices of waste disposal can make the process of countering the challenge more motivating.

Next for the panel was to identify what kind of data sets can help the lab in accessing the information. The Government data set that can contribute to the process included a list of contractors and official dump yards along with the detailed system process, the current facilities and the minimum standards for the waste pickers made available to each.  The crowd sourced data like ratings for each household from the waste collectors who serve them, a tracking system for the waste that could help in visualizing the waste journey and sensitizing people about their waste. The social media platforms that can serve as platforms for the dissemination of these data can range from televisions, radio, Internet, mobiles (apps, texts and calls).

The session ended with the panelists pondering about the novel interactions between citizens and government agencies that the services will enable and listed ‘unblinding’ people’s awareness, a formation of a feedback loops on incorrect data sets that will lead to more refined available data and humanization of the waste collection as the prime forms of exchanges that could be formulated.


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