Garbage Chutes: Gravitational Mess

A Garbage Chute is a long vertical pipe that aids in transporting waste at the floor level to a collection point at the bottom, using gravity. In this article, we are referring to a garbage chute system that is fit into residential apartments.This technology positions itself as a solution to save labour from housekeeping staff’s collection time – and make it convenient to throw your waste whenever possible through the day for residents. This technology also finds some glamour as it brings aspirations to lifestyle of the west.

Timely collection and timely management of the collected waste is extremely important – that is the bottom line in waste management. Both these facets work well with a third critical wheel – that is of source segregation. The foundational pillar – source segregation, brings to forefront a key element : accountability of segregated waste at the door level – at the household. This is an imperative step, which is iterated at various rules and regulation by both Central and Local Authorities in respective Waste Management Rules. \

A garbage chute fundamentally disrupts this pillar of source segregation. It implies, that anyone in the building can throw whatever they want, whenever they want to. The first level service provider – i.e., the housekeeping staff will have no clue to identify the culprit who has thrown in mixed waste. With no accountability, the non-threatening municipal waste becomes a hazard – as multiple materials like broken glass and sharps can hurt the human being who is sorting through this waste. Waste at this level, becomes a disgusting affair. Imagine a tender coconut shell thrown from the 22nd floor crash landing on a bag of food waste which is liquid-y in nature – and splatters on a neighboring soiled diaper.

The end result of this continues to be mixed waste – with limited viability for both composting and actual material recovery. Neither will happen since contamination is all over the place. While one may argue that garbage chutes can be labelled to prevent people from sending different types of materials in different chute tubes. But labels can be torn off, and people can forget – and neither of these problems can be solved. This is the harsh reality of how a garbage chute functions. No source accountability, no segregated – aligned waste and zero dignity to the person who is managing the waste.

What is mixed, cannot be fixed. Unfortunately, this kind of mixed waste also leads to infrastructure being spoilt, broken. We’ve encountered many bins that break increasing costs of investing in such dustbins.

From experience of 8 years, where we have enabled discipline of segregation at the door step. People change their behavior when they know that their act of segregation is actually being managed within their own backyard. Simple systems of door step collection – and segregation are undermined with the broader thought – who will segregate. In our experience of working with 15000+ homes, we can tell you – if we consistently supplement action of composting/material recovery – 100% people segregate, and even sustain it for the long haul. That’s the kind of behaviour that we need to pass on to the next generation.

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