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Design in the Dustbin


‘What did you possibly think of writing that connects Information Design and Waste Management?’ you might wonder. Don’t worry folks. I am not going to grind you down with Wasteful logic (clever!) or tedious facts.

Recently, Bangalore’s Municipal Corporation (BBMP) announced that the people have to sort their domestic waste before handing it over to the municipal workers.

It has been over a fortnight since the new guidelines came into being and I must say, the results across the city have been pretty disappointing. Hardly 32% of the population are following the rules of waste separation. Citizens aren’t even separating Wet waste from Dry waste which was the most important step.

‘Why haven’t the city and its people caught onto the logic of dumping their waste into two separate bins?’ I wondered a couple of days back as I threw a piece of an apple into the ‘dry’ bin before being chided to put it in the ‘Green’ bin! The answer didn’t strike me until I read an article in The Hindu a couple of days back. In it, I found out the real reason behind the corporations idea to immediately separate at least the wet waste. Turns out, the BBMP has a broader agenda which is to collect Wet waste from the city and send them to landfills around the city where they shall be turned into Compost. Compost can be directly used as a cheap and effective alternative to Organic Manure. The corporation plans to sell this compost at Rs. 66 per tonne to the farmers in and around Bangalore. BBMP have come out with figures that after the waste sorting drive, Bangalore generates 1200 tonnes of wet waste daily. That is 3 Crores worth of compost per year! And that’s only with 32% of sorting!

I was shocked to read this! Why hadn’t I heard about this point earlier? All I heard for a month was that I had to sort my waste or pay a fine. Nobody told me what the end results and advantages of the waste sorting would be. Wondering if I had been guilty of ignorance, I snooped around and asked as many people as I could if they had any idea why we were told to sort our waste. Apart from a few who knew scratchy details of the BBMP’s plan, the common answers were ‘It’s easier for the workers’, ‘It’s good for the environment’ or sometimes even an ‘It’s all politics, man!’

Enter Information Design.

The true impact of the absence of System and Information Design in the BBMP’s drive for waste segregation hit me hard. The fact that Government machineries in India do not rely on Design to drive societal change is truly worrying. By simply putting out deadlines and guidelines to follow without really making an effort to sensitize, build a consensus and evolve ideas to ensure efficient execution, the authorities cannot expect positive results. A simple fact to prove this is by the data that only 30% of the existing compost across landfills around Bangalore has been given to farmers. That’s because many farmers themselves are ignorant of the huge opportunity they have in front of them!

‘So how can Design play a role in such a case where a huge number of people need to be convinced to whole heartedly involve themselves to separate their waste for the betterment of the society?’ -This is the question the authorities need to ask themselves before putting the onus on the Design community out there.

Off the top of my ‘Information or System Design’ deprived mind, even I can shoot off a few ideas that the administration should try out as part of its awareness drive. Some might sound silly or plain stupid but as we Designers know, there is no stupid idea as long as it works:

  • Bangalore is known as the garden city and for good reason.  It should be very easy for the corporation with its vast network of councillors and workers to organize ‘Advantages of Compost’ demos across the huge number of parks in the city every weekend.
  • Do the same in schools, colleges, Govt offices, Technology parks and any place with mud and a crowd. Roping in NGO’s for the cause with a set agenda should be easy enough.
  • Organize an innovative signature campaign that hands out ‘I love compost’ badges to every signee.
  • The government can certainly spend a tiny amount of its ‘compost profit’ for innovative ads on papers, pamphlets, leaflets etc.
  • Organize a ‘Return Plastic’ initiative wherein people can dump all the waste plastic covers they have in exchange for a rose or a cabbage or any object that would make a good compost material.
  • Offer performance related bonuses to the municipal workers. The ones who collect the least plastic and take the least time to segregate get a bonus!
  • Make a video showing the farmers making an appeal to the people of Bangalore to give them compost so that they could give them healthy food!
  • Show a sense of urgency by treating the whole exercise as a momentous occasion. Put up a giant clock on M.G.Road that winds down with crackers at the midnight hour of the deadline (Ok, I accept. That’s too much)
  • If nothing works, at least organize a hundred flash mobs across town. That should definitely work.

There are a thousand other better ways to campaign for noble causes such as this. All it takes is cohesion between the authorities and people to believe in the cause. And Design can certainly act as the much needed link between the two. Waste sorting or any other law in this country meant for the masses cannot be bought through compulsion or a blind hope that change will happen in a hundred years. The authorities need to show a sense of urgency and create newer and more innovative ways to make the citizens aware of issues that ultimately concerns them as a whole.

With the tools of modern day Design, even a chore as dull yet important as Waste sorting can be turned into a festival and not a deadline.

One Response to “Design in the Dustbin”

  1. [...] Share this:EmailTwitterFacebookStumbleUponPinterestTumblrGoogle +1Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in Mandai and tagged creative, design, green design, innovation, social design, waste segregation bangalore. Bookmark the permalink. ← The Indian ‘Curiosity’ [...]

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