Segregated waste collection from households started in Panjim in 2003 when it was still a municipal council and Sanjit Rodrigues was the chief officer and Patricia Pinto was a co-opted councilor specifically to manage the garbage in the city.
The council constituted a special Waste Management Cell which was helped greatly by the around 60 students of Nirmala Institute at Altinho who were first trained for about three months on what they will have to do. “We worked out the logistics first identifying what happens to each piece of garbage,” recalled Patricia.
The entire city was divided into 15 garbage zones and the 60 students went to each and every household in the city and painstakingly explained to the people not only the benefits of segregating waste but how to do it too.
Any household that was found locked or vacant, the students would visit it again till they either met the occupant or got a valid reason why the premises were locked like for example the owners were living elsewhere.
“I remember we collected Rs. 1.35 lakhs to Rs. 1.80 lakhs by selling the recyclable waste that was collected in the segregated manner,” said Patricia who disclosed that dry waste was further segregated into plastic, paper, metal and glass and non-recyclable like the Kurkure packets and thermocol.
“The campaign was successful because of the support from the council staff and the exemplary manner in which the chief officer Sanjit Rodrigues handed the whole programme,” she said.
“Panjim was successful in segregated waste collection from households primarily because of the strong commitment from the elected councilors and the staff and the backing of the NGO,” Sanjit Rodrigues who was initially the chief officer and then Commissioner of Panjim when this programme was launched.
He recalled the great support Panjim Movement for Civic Amenities headed by Patricia Pinto lent to the campaign where PMCA volunteers accompanied the students undertaking the survey and educating the people on how to segregate waste and later accompanied the staff when they went to collect the waste from households.
“We set in a system where the wet waste was collected every day between 2:30 to 4:30 pm while the dry waste was collected only on Mondays and Thursday,” he recalled pointing out that staff would not accept wet waste packed in plastic bags and the owner was asked to give only the wet waste.
Two bins were given to each household or office premises – one for wet waste and the other for dry waste and once this exercise proved successful the curb side bins were removed initially from Dona Paula area and then over the whole city.
“Panjim looked clean as the stray animals like cows, dogs, cats and crows drastically reduced as the curb side bins that were their hunting grounds disappeared,” recalled Sanjit who asserted that garbage management cannot be done sitting in offices but by going out in the field.
He advised Margao Municipal Council that is struggling with waste management to tackle the problem individual ward wise and said the system in Panjim has enhanced to such an extent that in housing societies today they are segregating waste in five different bins.
“Of course skeptics are everywhere and even in Panjim there were a number of people who laughed at the idea of segregated waste management and in fact many even predicted that bin less city would be a nonstarter, but we proved everyone wrong,” said Sanjit pointing out that the system is working even today 15 years after it had started.