Valuing Urban Waste: The need for comprehensive material recovery and recycling policy

The statement ‘Cities are engines of growth’ is an old cliché. In the name of economic growth and social wellbeing cities consume resources sourced from faraway lands and release matter that is inadequately termed “waste”. Thus, it is imperative to frame the discourse of sustainability in cities around the questions of ‘flow of matter’ i.e. where is the material coming from and where is it going after use? A city’s waste is often not perceived as a valuable resource, and hence wasted in dump yards. The dichotomy between what is resource and what is waste is not very clear. Waste too becomes a resource. It has inherent value which can be recovered and reclaimed. Recycling, up-cycling and down cycling are all ways of transforming waste into value, and providing raw materials for industries dotting urban –rural landscapes. The report traces the actors involved in the informal recycling economy of Indian cities and attempts to move away from the binary definitions of waste as “Use and throw”, and to appreciate waste as a resource, setting the tone to contextualize the informal economy in Bengaluru with special reference to Nayandahalli, the plastic recycling hub of Bengaluru. The report looks at the various policies and rules that govern the management of non-biodegradable waste and the informal actors involved in the waste economy. The report also looks at a comparative analysis of policy frameworks of other countries, and in conclusion looks at opportunities and recommendations for a Recycling Policy in India.

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