Waste Collection : Less than smooth transition to municipal waste system in Chandigarh

Applying the brakes to door-to-door waste collection has proven a lesson in patience for municipal authorities.

The joint capital of North-West Indian States Punjab and Haryana has replaced its system of ‘rehris’ which sees drivers pick up waste against a specific charge on automated vehicles in favour of conventional two-bin vehicles. 490 of these vehicles make their rounds in Chandigarh, covering most major sectors of the city. Parallel to the operation of said vehicles via the municipal authorities, informal waste pickers still peddle their services to residents. In some cases, they have registered with authorities and operate on their behalf. Said waste collectors pick waste and hand it over to official authorities in the previously mentioned two-bin vehicles. Both parties are often said to roam residential areas in tandem.

Yet in other cases, authorities fail to collect waste from residents, allowing garbage collectors to resume their duties in cycle carts as of old.

A 2020 study conducted by the Polytechnic University of Bari found that door-to-door collection systems can increase local interest and participation in recycling schemes. Behavioural surveys involving citizens proved that, despite initial failings of a door-to-door collection system, happiness with the system was subject to citizens being adequately informed as well as integrated within the existing waste collection scheme.

In Chandigarh, however, criticism has been rife because the municipal waste collection system in question throws up a host of new problems. Drivers are known to attach burlap bags (used to transport large commodities of produce such as grain) to the outside of vans. These are filled with dry waste, kept apart from the mass of collected waste for re-selling purposes. Often, these bags spill over as the vans make their way through the city, further contributing to existing waste pollution.

In lieu of representing official authorities, the medical officer of Health, Dr. Amrit Pal Warring, had this to say on the matter: “Our vehicles are collecting waste. There are some teething problems in a few pockets. We are trying to fix these. Once our three material recovery facilities are ready, issues related to hanging of gunny bags on vehicles will also get resolved. For the time being, we are giving specialised bags to the collectors.”