Dinesh Bandela, WasteAid’s new project manager for the Circular Economy Network in Guwahati, India, shares his early thoughts on resource recovery and circularity in the city.
In my debut blog I wanted to give you my first impressions of the progress towards a key component of achieving economic circularity in Guwahati, a tier 2 city in the North Eastern region of India, the recovery and reuse of waste. I am Dinesh Bandela, newly appointed Project Manager of WasteAid’s Circular Economy Network in India supported by Huhtamaki, a Finland based global food packaging specialist.
Prior to this I spent over ten years in the national capital, Delhi (Dilli-we call it in Hindi “The city of Hearts”) on various issues related to sustainable solid and plastic waste management including helping define single use plastic in India and developing an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) strategic framework for sustainable plastic waste management. The opportunity to work with WasteAid, has meant I have had to transfer my love for my home city Dilli to Guwahati for two years.
Moving to a Guwahati it was key that I gained a sound understanding of the existing waste management practices on the ground. The per capita waste generation of the city is high but is per the national average of 0.5 kilo per day. Taking this average, the city generates 550 tonnes of solid waste daily. This is a lot – and reflects the take-make-dispose linear economy that dominates! To compound this, the percentages of collection and processing are also low. The city is still dependant on one landfill, Boragaon, for the disposal of 60 percent of its waste.
Disposal remains the dominant technology solution for Guwahati. According to an independent research, the city generates 37 tonnes of plastic waste, with around 60 percent recyclable content in it. However, lack of proper source segregation, collection and transportation mechanism, the potential of recycling this content is lost. This is effectively lost income as well as lost potential for job creation.
The picture is not completely gloomy in the city though. Environmentalists and local activists have been trying to push sustainable consumption and plastic waste management practices in the city. I have been lucky to have met a number of them over past couple of weeks. I would describe Guwahati as having a mixed picture in terms of the awareness on the recovery and reuse of waste.
(1) I could see people carrying tea in single use polyethylene bags, a very common practice among manual labourers (working in road construction, rickshaw pullers etc.) and at the same time, I observed a man choosing to use a reusable metal container to carry his tea.
(2) I have observed the Bharalu River, once a tributary of river Brahmaputra, now acts as sewer line for the entire city and is filled with indiscriminately disposed plastic waste, and at the same time, I observed people beginning to use and carry metal straws. These are small chinks of light which give me hope!
Other noteworthy initiatives that we are following that are trying to ensure plastic reaches back to the loop:
- Upcycling initiatives by Small Wish foundation an International NGO
- Beach clean-ups organised by Young Indians-Guwahati Chapter
- Initiative by Guwahati Municipal Corporation to capture plastic waste in drainage lines
I am really excited to work in the city, to build on these existing initiatives to create a network of people working towards circular economy. If you want to find out more about the project and how to get involved:
1. We will be launching our Circular Economy Network in Guwahati via a webinar on 19 January 2021, please register here.
2. If you are working in Guwahati in the circular economy and the recovery and reuse of waste, we would be happy to connect for more stories and examples of best practice. Connect with me on LinkedIn.
3. For more information and to join the network, please visit circulareconomynetwork.co