Originally published in The Times of India

BENGALURU: The garbage menace has kept not only pourakarmikas but also firefighters on their feet this summer. Between February and April, officials from the fire and emergency services department have spent most of their time dousing flames at trash dumps.

Unsegregated garbage is contributing to the plastic waste dotting the city. The problem has only been compounded by the falling petrol prices, which have brought down the cost of recyclable plastic. “These are the peak months. But this year, our control room observed nearly a 30% increase in the number of calls on garbage-related fires,” said KU Ramesh, deputy director (technical), fire and emergency services.

“We get 15-20 calls a day and at least 10 of them are about garbage piles being set afire. The calls come from across the city and in a majority of cases, it is the pourakarmikas themselves who burn the mounds,” said a fire department official.

Pourakarmikas often have no other choice, said Nalini Shekar of the NGO Hasiru Dala. “Plastic recycling units on the outskirts of Bengaluru are shutting down as the process doesn’t involve incentives any longer. There has been a depression in the plastic recycling industry for the past two years, thanks to the fall in petrol and crude oil prices. This means even collecting low- value plastic for recycling is pointless. Even multi-layer plastic or branded plastic is not being recycled,” she said. Since they can’t just abandon garbage in public places, pourakarmikas have resorted to burning plastic, Nalini added.

To curb this practice, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board has roped in cement factories who can use the plastic waste in incinerators and kilns. “We issued a directive to cement factory owners about a month ago, asking them to collect garbage from Bengaluru. Till Wednesday, they had picked up about 1,500 tonnes. The collection will continue from dry and wet waste management centres of BBMP. In about two months, we will review the situation,” Lakshman, chairperson, KSPCB, pointed out.

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