I was invited by JUiNCUBATOR , a joint initiative by JAIN (deemed-to-be university), Department of Science and Technology (DST), Govt. of India, and ALSTOM India Limited, as part of the brainstorming discussions ahead of the Festival of Innovation and Entrepreneurship ( FINE). FINE is a unique initiative of the Rashtrapati Bhawan, Department of Science and Technology ( DST) and National Innovation Foundation ( NIF) towards building a supportive eco-system for innovators in the country.

As a run up to the festival and in order to have deeper engagement and participation of Technology Business Incubators ( TBI), that DST supports, there are five topics that have been identified – Inclusive Development, Unleashing the potential of Indian Agriculture, Health Care and Nutrition, Scaling up and commercialisation of innovations and Waste to Wealth. I was on the Waste to Wealth panel.

So my first thought, is why waste to wealth? Undoubtedly, waste is a huge opportunity, waste is multi-billion dollar industry. Waste is now glamorous, and there is a new model evolving in the waste industry- the social enterprise/entrepreneurial model.

Personally, I have been a reluctant activist. While I grew up with steel containers and plates and the occasional glass items as plastic items were a taboo. The Black and white bag was something we were always reminded off, that needed to be carried to shop, kitchen waste was composted and dry waste went to the local scrap shop but yes, we were still throwing something out. And, in all these somewhere “waste”, was invisible and it did not surface till 15th August 2009, when post a massive clean drive organised by Myriam Shankar, we decided that waste needs to be addressed heads on. We cannot be mixing waste, cleaning up the streets and sending it to a landfill. Myriam decided to reach out to groups working in the city either at an individual level or at an organisational level and October 2009; the Solid Waste Management Round Table (SWMRT) was formed- A volunteer driven group championing the cause of decentralised and inclusive waste management.

Fast forward to 2010, when Nalini Shekar attended one of our meetings and remarked that “You cannot plan for waste management without including waste pickers”, was a powerful statement that resonated through the group. And in 2012, when the landfill communities decided enough was enough and led by ESG the Mavalipura Landfill was shut down.

From 2012 to 2019, Bangalore has come a long way- The rise in citizen groups, the increase focus on governance, and the single use plastic ban, sustainable menstruation, eco-friendly events, the PIL and many more. How would you define innovation in the municipal solid waste managment space? I am drawn back to the NIF’s mandate, which states:

The NIF’s role is to strengthen the grassroots technological innovations and outstanding traditional knowledge. Its mission is to help India become a creative and knowledge-based society by expanding policy and institutional space for grassroots technological innovators. For more information read http://nif.org.in/objective

In the Bengaluru model, there have been many firsts and innovations which go beyond mere technological interventions, but also looks at social innovations (new ideas, services and models), development of new processes and structures to improve performances, in addition to strong presence of informed and involved citizen groups, capacity building and enhanced communications mostly by citizens bordered around behaviour change, peer pressure, social acceptability and environment consciousness.

Using the terms social innovation and social design interchangeably here are few of my list of innovations. (I am including everything platforms (Audio, video, digital) platform systems, models, strategies, campaigns, experiences, activism structures, art- why because it has an integrating force and connects different actors and processes.  Yes some of them have been used before, and have been replicated, but to replicate in a different geography and environment, is innovation too. To quote Suraj Srinivasa, “What underlies the path of social innovation is not a social problem to be solved, but the social change it brings about”.

I am still crowdsourcing to expand the list, so feel free to write to me.

1.    The concept of 2Bin 1 Bag

A simple solution to segregating waste at source, by keeping two bins and one bag, can solve the problem of management of waste at homes. The Karnataka High Court, on Dec 17, 2015, mandated the “two bins and one bag system” be adopted by all waste generators in Bengaluru. https://www.2bin1bag.in/

2.    Composting Revolution – Swachagraha, Compost Santhes, Swachagraha Kalika Kendra

In 2016, the Solid Waste Management Roundtable ( SWMRT) launched a city wide campaign titled Swachagraha seeking to communicate the key tenets of solid waste management, i.e. segregation of waste at source, home composting and responsible waste management. The campaign also seeks to engage stakeholders, highlighting the importance of “No to landfills and growing Safe food”, thus leading to sustainable living. https://www.swachagraha.in/about

From inspiring, educating and equipping communities to take up home composting, the campaign has diversified into Composting Santhes at the ward level, to encouraging zero waste temples and installation of lane composters in the area, to the launch of the Swachagraha Kalika Kendra https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/ushering-urban-composting-revolution-pinky-chandran/

3.    Dry waste Collection Centers

Dry Waste Collection Centers (DWCCs) are important aspect of decentralized waste management and though the concept was modeled around the neighbourhood recycling centers, was based on the principles of waste hierarchy, to put in practice the three R’s – reduce, recycle and re-use at the neighbourhood level. The DWCCs are to facilitate the collection/ buy-back/ take back of all dry waste from local residents, contract workers, and waste workers or scrap dealers, integrate informal waste workers into the operations of these centers and encourage/implement extended producers responsibility ( EPR) of packaging materials that are not being recycled presently, thus serving as the cornerstone for the triple bottom line of operations – people, planet and profit. Bengaluru became the first municipality to set up DWCCs in the country and gave access to waste pickers to run it. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1878029616301128

4.    Micro Plan for better waste management

A Ward Micro Plan is a process of creating a solid waste management collection and transportation plan for the smallest unit of management (i.e. Wards). As per the Micro Plan, a Ward is split into Blocks (750 Households + small commercial units) (Figure 02) to which man power and vehicles are allotted. Additionally, for Street Sweeping, roads have been classified into Major, Intermediate and Minor roads, each of which have been assigned a unique road ID.http://bbmp.gov.in/BBMPSWM/Documents/CleanBengaluru/SWM%20Information%20Manual_Part-II%20Ward%20Specific%20Manual%20(English).pdf

5.    Green Events

Bengaluru has paved the way for responsible event waste management – marathons, weddings, large sporting events, conferences and more. Different events championed by different individuals – Meenakshi Bharath, Shilpi Sahu to name a few Here are a few links




6.    Green the Red: A Sustainable Menstruation Campaign

Green the Red, a sustainable menstruation campaign was launched at the Bengaluru Pinkathon 2017, spearheaded by Malini Parmar and Smita Kulkarni, the campaign is now a volunteer collective of individual eco-warriors and eco-retailers passionate about changing the menstrual hygiene landscape in India https://www.greenthered.in/about

7.    Hasiru Mane – A Project on Low-cost and Sustainable Housing for Waste pickers Hasiru Dala recognized that the flooding in slums of Bangalore during monsoons of 2017 gave waste pickers many sleepless nights. The houses they live in range from shanties and tin sheds to poorly constructed mud or brick structures that get very hot in summer, leak during the monsoons and lack ventilation. Some of the houses built with mud walls collapsed during heavy rains. In most metro cities, Construction and Demolition (C&D) waste which consists of debris generated during the construction, renovation and demolition of buildings is continuously on the rise. Certain C&D waste materials that have minimum damage can be reused in new building projects, thus avoiding the need to mine and process virgin materials. Hasiru Dala is inspired by the work done by a set of architects in Pune who took up the challenge of renovation of existing houses of waste pickers by using efficient architectural design and reusable components of C&D waste (like window panes, grills, good quality bricks, paint, fixtures etc.) to rebuild beautiful, functional homes while reducing the cost of construction by 30% as compared to conventional methods. This strategy is especially useful for waste pickers who live on little income that is usually unpredictable and can vary depending on the highly volatile recycling industry. The project titled “Hasiru Mane” (Green House in Kannada) intends to demonstrate that public housing projects can build affordable houses that bring down the cost of construction but without much compromise to aesthetics or energy efficiency.=

8.    The coming together of the landfill impacted communities

An important milestone, as it signals to the world, that we need to step up our responsibility in managing our waste. http://esgindia.org/campaigns/resources/justice-mr-n-kumar-retd-calls-widespread.html

9.    Formation of BET

Citizens groups across Bengaluru came together to form the Bengaluru Eco Team, a volunteer group to take ownership of the Single use plastic ban. The group is most active on whats app and https://www.facebook.com/groups/BangaloreEcoTeam/about/

10. Hasiru Dala and Hasiru Dala Innovations

Hasiru Dala is a not for profit, social impact organization that focuses on acquiring social justice for wastepickers through interventions, co-created with the wastepickers, in the areas of identity rights, access to family education, healthcare, housing & pension, skill development, market and employment access, and multi-tier policy advocacy.  Hasiru Dala Innovations is a for-benefit, not-for-loss social enterprise creating better livelihoods for wastepickers through inclusive businesses that have an environmental impact. We currently offer destination-assured Total Waste Management Services for the responsible bulk waste generator, Event Waste Management Services for the eco-friendly host, and Aggregation Centre which was set up in the wake of demonetisation to assure wastepickers of offtake of the waste they collect.

http://hasirudala.in/  https://hasirudalainnovations.com/

11. Praana Poorna Collective A collective championing the sue of natural cleaners https://praanapoornacollective.weebly.com/?fbclid=IwAR2YLulqeNqZFj3lYBCwgauNzLT6JzkKr0eTOwLnqtMj1PHg6NIZyEHu4Y

12. Eco Gram Myriam Shankar who launched SWMRT has now moved to championing zero waste villages https://www.thebetterindia.com/113094/waste-management-bengaluru-village-recycling/ https://www.taict.org/

13. Jhatkaa’s Lets Stop Burning Garbage Campaign


Note: The Page 6 of the BBMP Manual on SWM lists many firsts http://bbmp.gov.in/BBMPSWM/Documents/CleanBengaluru/SWM%20Information%20Manual_Part-II%20Ward%20Specific%20Manual%20(English).pdf. (Yes we do have a long way to go, with governance, but as citizens the more we ask, the more we will know)

Picture Credits:

2Bin1Bag https://www.facebook.com/2bin1bag/photos/a.1570028029882480/1689592737926008/?type=3&theater

Green the Red: https://www.facebook.com/greenthered/photos/a.448747138791647/660943847571974/?type=3&theater