How does a city solve its hunger and plastic waste problem at the same time?
Ambikapur is a city with a population of just under two lakhs, located in Chattisgarh’s Surguja district. In an attempt to find a solution to the twin problems mentioned above, its municipal officials have launched a unique garbage café scheme.
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At this café, ragpickers and the homeless will collect plastic waste, and in return, the municipal corporation will offer them food.
As per multiple reports, those who collect 1 kg of plastic waste will receive a full meal, while those collecting 500g will be served breakfast. The plastic collected by the municipal corporation will be used to construct roads. Besides offering food, there is also a definitive plan to also provide shelter to over 100 homeless people in the city.
Presenting the city’s municipal budget earlier this week, Mayor Ajay Tirkey said that the café will run from the city’s main bus stand.
The authorities have allocated Rs 5.5 lakh for this purpose, and if funds run out, there is a proposal to get elected representatives (MLAs and MPs) to dip into their MPLAD or MLACDS funds.
“The café will open on August 1. There are two reasons why we have started this scheme. First, the growing rise of plastic, particularly carry bags, has become a serious issue despite running constant checks on various commercial establishments. So, through this, we are trying to address the plastic problem. Second, there are around 100-odd homeless families for whom we will at least provide meals,” says Manoj Singh, the Municipal Commissioner of Ambikapur, speaking to The Better India.
Using shredded plastic remains the most common technique in building greener roads. In fact, under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, authorities are mandated to utilise hazardous plastic refuse for road construction. Besides recycling the waste, the combination of plastic and asphalt makes the road more durable because water does not permeate through it.
Utilising plastic granules and asphalt, the city already has a road constructed with excessive plastic waste in the Godpur area.
This scheme also is part of the city’s more extensive cleanliness campaign. Under the Central government’s Swachh Survekshan 2019 rankings, Ambikapur was declared India’s second cleanest city, following Indore in Madhya Pradesh, jumping 15 places from last year. The city has no open dumping sites. In fact, the city had converted a massive 15-acre landfill into a ‘Sanitation Awareness Park’ marked by trees and ponds in May 2016.
“This year the city received [a] 5-star rating of ‘Garbage Free Cities.’ [The] Star Rating of Garbage Free Cities is based on SMART Framework – Single metric, Measurable, Achievable, Rigorous verification mechanism and Targeted towards outcomes,” says a March 2019 NDTV report.
The city has made tremendous progress by executing 100% door-to-door waste collection and segregation, and all the waste that is generated gets treated in the city itself. When Ritu Sain, a 2003-batch IAS officer and former collector of Surguja district first arrived in 2014, she saw an open garbage dump situated right opposite a massive ‘Welcome to Ambikapur’ billboard. Her efforts, and subsequent initiatives have taken by the city administrations has brought Ambikapur this far.
“Recyclable, organic and non-recyclable items are packed separately after segregation and sent to the central treasury for tertiary segregation of plastics, metal and electronic items and are then sold as raw materials for recycling to manufacturers, the administration has tied up wit. Organic waste is fed to cattle, ducks, and hens at the centres while other remains are used in the biogas digester and composting. Inorganic waste has 17 categories and several subcategories of paper, plastic, electric goods etc. that are sold for recycling to manufacturers at Ambikapur,” reports Times of India.
In many ways, the garbage café scheme, if implemented well, can further strengthen the city’s robust waste management system.
Instead of seeing rag pickers collect this waste and earn money that often isn’t enough for a substantial meal, the government scheme offers them another outlet to not just sell this waste, but also ensure a decent modicum of daily nutrition.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)