Mumbai receives WASTECOSMART experts

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Nine experts in waste management and decision support systems travelled to Mumbai, India to meet with key stakeholders in innovative waste management during the week of 1-5 February 2016. The timing proved to be excellent, with waste management increasingly seen as an opportunity for positive change by a growing group of academics, entrepreneurs and do-gooders in India.

In October 2014, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Mission, a campaign that aims to accomplish the vision of a 'Clean India' by 2019. As well as better sanitation practices, one of its main objectives is achieving 100% coverage for waste collection and processing in more than 4000 towns and cities across India. Not an easy task for mega cities such as Mumbai, whose 22 million inhabitants produce immense quantities of solid waste every day.


The WASTECOSMART delegation met many of the actors who will drive this change, and engaged them in a pro-active exchange, seeking new approaches to the challenge of diverting waste from landfill in order to move up the waste hierarchy.


First stop was the Antony Waste Handling Cell (AWHCPL), where the delegation received a general introduction to solid waste management practices in Mumbai. Vice President of Operations Stewart Klevan then explained how Antony is building India’s first bioreactor landfill cell at the Kanjurmarg dumping ground.


Jyoti Mhapsekar (president of Women’s Liberation Organisation Stree Mukti Sanghatana and Ashoka Fellow) and Dr. Sharad P. Kale (Bhabha Atomic Research Centre) introduced the delegation to an inspiring, bottom-up initiative they have developed in cooperation with social entrepreneurs Sampurn(e)arth. Their new business model is based on on-site waste separation and processing at hospitals and university campuses. Not only does this prevent the transport and dumping of waste and improve the working conditions of waste pickers, it also enables the recycling of valuable resources to produce both biogas and high quality compost.


At the TATA Institute for Social Sciences, the NISARGRUNA Biogas Technology for the treatment of organic waste was demonstrated, in addition to the recently built training and awareness centre for educating people on the value of waste.


The delegation was then hosted by Karan Thakkar and his team at the EcoCentric E-Waste facility in Khopoli, who set the scene for the waste experts by presenting the developing e-waste market in India and its challenges. WASTE CONCERN’s Colette van der Minne (Amsterdam Economic Board) provided the EcoCentric team with insight into the status-quo of e-waste practices in the EU, which was followed by an interactive discussion and a tour through the EcoCentric e-waste facility.


On the fourth day of the visit the International Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay hosted the conference “Good for the economy, good for the environment. Tapping the potential of resource-efficient waste management”, organised by Anurag Garg of the Centre for Environmental Science and Engineering (CESE at IIT) and WASTECOSMART’s Ron Janssen (VU). During the one-day conference, Indian and European waste experts and academics specialised in energy and waste presented their research and insights.  


The WASTECOSMART delegation visit concluded with an inspiring visit to a grassroots organisation called Tiny Miracles, whose ambition is to lift an entire community out of extreme poverty. They run a foundation focusing on education and health care, and a social enterprise whose products are sold in design shops all over the world. The delegation held an interactive session on waste awareness with the Tiny Miracles community members. Through this the delegation gained valuable insight into local perspectives and challenges on waste separation.


In the following months, the European and Indian experts will work on identifying opportunities for collaboration in research, business and policy development for innovative regional waste management.