Decentralised Waste Management Solutions in India

Krishna delivering our new recycling bins to the community in Kottapuram.

Krishna delivering our new recycling bins to the community in Kottapuram.

Over the past few months, our team in India have been working hard on a number of projects designed to address pollution at its source. Our aim is to reduce eutrophication of waterways and coastal ecosystems, eliminate the burning of waste, and take the pressure off marine ecosystems through the creation of a locally-led decentralised waste management service.

Not only does our work support the rehabilitation of the ocean, it also engages local women and other community members to take the lead on the projects, which provide an ongoing source of income, convert waste into food and open up a new world of financial opportunities for local people, many of whom are living below the poverty line.

A PLASTIC FREE FUTURE FOR KOVALAM’S BEACHES

After our ongoing work to transition street vendors away from single-use plastics to locally-sourced Areca Leaf alternatives, we recently took our proposal for Plastic Free Beaches to the Kerala Tourism Authority. After reviewing our proposal, they have agreed to implement a full-ban on single-use plastic products across the region, to support our transition towards less-harmful alternatives!

From our ongoing waste surveys in the area, we estimate a minimum of 285 single-use plastic items are being disposed of within 100 meters of the vendors every day. This means that the single-use plastic ban will stop at least 100,000 straws, spoons and styrofoam bowls from littering the beaches and ocean every year! Whilst not a panacea, this success is another positive step forward towards our long-term objective of a waste-free future in the region.

Our range of locally-sourced Areca Leaf products are being rolled out to local vendors to replace single-use plastic and polystyrene.

Our range of locally-sourced Areca Leaf products are being rolled out to local vendors to replace single-use plastic and polystyrene.

One of the local street vendors at Eve’s Beach trialling our Areca Leaf products.

One of the local street vendors at Eve’s Beach trialling our Areca Leaf products.

A COMMUNITY-LED WASTE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM IN THE WORKS!

Our efforts to collect and survey waste and to greater understand associated community attitudes in Vizhinjan is continuing with positive outcomes. Our introduction of recycled segregated rice sacks for various waste streams has made it simpler and more effective for households to properly dispose of their waste. These sacks store the waste, making collection and disposal more efficient, whilst reducing the need to take waste to an external location. Originally, we provided multiple sacks to each household, however we found that the women were worried about the social stigma associated to waste when carrying the sacks. These concerns were acting as a barrier to using or carrying the bags outside of their homes.

After a discussion with one of our local coordinators, Krishna, the women decided to re-design the bags, making them foldable, with a handle for easy transportation. The design and shape of the bags now hide the contents well, alleviating the women’s concerns, whilst allowing them to be kept off the ground outside of each household. Our team now collects from 21 local households, with that number ever-increasing as more women from the community become involved and train each other in proper segregation, cleaning and disposal.  

Local women sewing some of the multi-stream waste bags.

Local women sewing some of the multi-stream waste bags.

Teaching women from the local households how to segregate and sort their waste.

Teaching women from the local households how to segregate and sort their waste.

TURNING FISHING NETS INTO A TOOL FOR POSITIVE CHANGE

During our local community surveys, we’ve found that every family who purchases fish at the fish market use at least one plastic bag per day, which are then discarded after they bring the fish home. We’ve been trialing new re-usable fish and vegetable tote bags made from recycled fishing nets that our team has collected from the beach and the ocean. These tote bags are easy to wash and do not lock in any odor, which is an important factor to the people in the villages when carrying fish. This is an important project to reduce plastic pollution, especially given that each household in the region uses a new plastic bag for their daily trip to the fish market. With the transition to these reusable bags, not only are we recycling fishing nets, but also eliminating the demand and pollution associated with each household using 365 single-use plastic bags each year! This initiative also employs local women to make the bags themselves, providing a valuable source of income within the struggling community.

Women from Kottapuram and SISP sewing our single-use plastic bag alternatives from fishing nets that we have collected across the region.

Women from Kottapuram and SISP sewing our single-use plastic bag alternatives from fishing nets that we have collected across the region.

Community surveys with the fishing community of Vizhinjam help our team to better understand the situation and identify solutions alongside locals.

Community surveys with the fishing community of Vizhinjam help our team to better understand the situation and identify solutions alongside locals.

COLUMBUS ZOO AND AUSTRALIAN ETHICAL SUPPORTING OUR WORK!

We are over the moon to have recently been awarded a Columbus Zoo and Australian Ethical grant to boost our work in India! The funds from these grants will be invested in expanding our on-ground team and assisting in our newest development in the region - the construction and implementation of an upcycled plastic composting and aquaponics (CAP) system for use in households across our target communities! A huge thank you to Australian Ethical and Columbus Zoo for your support.

Engaging with local Ward leaders to get them onside with our projects and provide local resources and support.

Engaging with local Ward leaders to get them onside with our projects and provide local resources and support.

ENGAGING LOCAL LEADERS TO DRIVE OUR PROJECTS

As we continue to grow our projects in India, we are very excited to announce a new addition to our Indian Board of Directors, local Kottapuram Ward Leader Lissy Alexander. Lissy has been working within the local community for the past decade as a community advocate and Ward secretary and is passionate about the issues that the community faces, as well as the solutions that our team are working on. She will be a valuable asset to our Board.

As our work in India continues, we’re excited by the community’s willingness to take action and leadership towards addressing these issues at their source. Through facilitating the switch from single-use plastics to less-harmful alternatives, developing local waste management services and looking into plastic pollution solutions which can provide a source of waste disposal, food, and income generation, we believe that the future for Kovalam and Vizhinjam can be a brighter one.

Stay tuned!

Kids from the local community test our the durability of our up-cycled waste bags.

Kids from the local community test our the durability of our up-cycled waste bags.