Community comes together for tackling the war against waste
Residents Of Kasturbanagar Association (ROKA) is a residents’ welfare association based in Kasturba Nagar, Adyar in Chennai city. A couple of like-minded people formed a group taking waste management seriously. They went door to door educating people about waste management. The group started with solid waste management, segregating waste into three types – dry, wet and reject waste.
While collecting the solid waste using the battery-operated vehicle, there were many batteries and e-waste accumulated in homes, and people were incognizant of disposal of the e-waste. Though it was only a small miscellaneous collection of e-waste at each house, the association decided to solely organise a drive to collect electronic waste in 2019. This initiative was appreciated by the Greater Chennai Corporation, which supported the effort. The e-waste collection drive was a phenomenal success, according to the organisers. They had collected about 750kgs of e-waste and had handed it over to the corporation for proper disposal.
Since then many began contacting the association and requested to conduct more such drives to hand over their e-waste. Before organising the drive, the association did some groundwork and wanted to make sure that the e-waste goes into the hands of the right recycler. After locating the right recycler, they organised their second e-waste drive in January 2021 and about 1.3 metric tons of e-waste was collected.
The contributors of the e-waste had tattered clothes that were not in usable condition. They had requested the association to organise a drive for discarded items like old torn clothes, slippers, cushions, mattresses, etc. so that they can be recycled properly. Acknowledging this request, they had conducted a drive for collection and disposal of clothes in March 2021.
Despite the lockdown, they had received a humongous collection of clothes that is close to 10 metric tonnes. There were many clothes that could be worn so they decided to handover them to a charitable institution. The mattresses and slippers collected were handed over to an empanelled aggregator and recycler appointed by the Greater Chennai Corporation. And the rest of the collected waste was sent for proper disposal.
The Association’s drives became popular in the community that people who had missed the previous drives were calling the association on a daily basis requesting them to conduct another e-waste drive. And due to the pandemic, the usage of electronics and gadgets shot up and so did the e-waste. So they decided to conduct a bi-annual e-waste drive for the ones who missed the previous ones.
The second drive of their bi-annual e-waste drive was organised at the end of July where they collected about 4 metric tons! Though their association is based at Kasturba Nagar, Adyar, people across Chennai city can hand over their e-waste collections.
Here is an excerpt from the interview with Janani Venkitesh, secretary of ROKA:
Why should e-waste not be mixed with regular waste?
The e-waste when not recycled properly ends up in landfills, but it has a number of harmful chemicals like Lithium, Cadmium, Lead, Argentum, Aurum. Due to natural calamities and weather conditions, they start to reach the soil and pollute it which eventually makes the soil lose its nutrients. Even if it’s a battery or a small gadget, it causes a lot of pollution to the soil and pollutes the environment. So, we always need to make sure that the e-waste is recycled properly.
What are all the things that could be given off in these e-waste drives?
The things that could be given off in the Batteries, earphones, headphones, speakers, laptops, phones, refrigerators, washing machines, cathode tubes, old TVs, CDs, tape recorders, cassettes, etc.
Is the association partnering with any company for the disposal of e-waste?
For e-waste, the association partnered with World Scrap Recycling Solutions Pvt. Ltd for recycling. For old torn clothes and items, the aggregator was Waste Winn and the clothes in usable conditions were donated to Little Drops, a home for the elderly destitute in Paraniputhur on the outskirts of Chennai.
How can children and young adults participate in this effort?
Yes, children definitely participate in these drives. We had included them in the making of selfie photobooths for spreading awareness, building a robot using the e-wastes, volunteering, and many more activities during the drive.
What is your experience in conducting or being a part of the drives?
We offer many awareness programmes and so we get calls from people living in other metros asking us to guide them in organising these kinds of drives. There are people who still don’t understand the importance and process of recycling and segregating waste. If this can be managed correctly, we wouldn’t have landfills and we can ensure environmental sustainability.
Medha is a pre-teen girl who loves listening to all genres of music, loves to draw and paint, passionate about cooking and baking and eating it too. A heritage enthusiast, aspiring gymnast, a budding basketball and badminton player, she enjoys cycling and loves spending time with friends and family.