Last year, at Kabadiwalla Connect, the Neighbourhood Champions campaign saw the most traction as part of our advocacy work. The idea behind the campaign was to celebrate local recycling, encouraging more people with stories to come forward and motivate a larger audience to participate. The campaign was successful in discovering a network of hidden waste warriors in Chennai, who now work closely with us and are a part of a completely community run knowledge dissemination network.
This year, we have launched Kabadiwalla Connect’s Discussion Series - fortnightly talks with community members to educate them on segregation, composting and recycling, and furthermore to start a conversation on longer term waste solutions for the city.
Session 1 - January 10th, Spaces.
As an introductory session, we decided to have a stalwart of the waste management community lead the session, and share their experiences with waste management in their neighbourhood, providing technical knowledge as well as approaches to garner community participation.
By now, you have all heard of Mrs Shanthi Ulhas, Mahalingapuram’s waste warrior. If you want to know her story and all the work she’s done, read our previous blog post about her. We decided to invite her to lead the session, since she has been actively involved with us since our Invisible Recyclers launch event and attended almost all our subsequent events.
The session saw a turnout of about 30 people, which was a big success by our standards since we were targeting a medium sized group of about 20 - 25 people. Shanthi started the discussion talking about her experiences pushing community members to start composting, and garnering support to put pressure on the corporation to remove all bins from the streets around their colony. Following her, Professor emeritus T. Swaminathan from IIT, volunteered to talk about the waste collection and disposal process followed by the Corporation of Chennai and Ramky.
The rest of the session was dedicated to answering questions from the participants. Most of the questions were material specific, as has been the case in all our community meeting so far. For e.g. What can be done with e-waste? How do we dispose sanitary waste? What do we do with chocolate wrappers and chips packets? There was a good degree of participation from the Kabadiwalla Connect team as well as the participants themselves in answering the questions posed.
Our key message to take home was that we needed to start a conversation on the larger waste management picture in the city. Bearing that in mind, we requested everyone to publicise the discussion series through word of mouth, so that we could target a different group of people for each session.
Session 2 - January 24th, Sandy’s Alwarpet.
For the second session, we had a smaller venue and thus had to limit the number of participants. Eight people finally attended and we kicked off the discussion after everyone settled in. The smaller venue and crowd proved in the end, to be more beneficial and people felt more confident to engage with one another.
We started off with a brief presentation about Kabadiwalla Connect’s work and vision, following which we went into specifics on segregation systems and how to go about setting up one at home. Proposing a simple 3 bin system, we briefly described what materials went into each bin, how each kind of material could be handled and stored, and whether or not a back end infrastructure to process particular materials exist.
After the presentation, we asked the participants to introduce themselves, and elucidate their reasons for attending the session. To our surprise, almost all of them were very active advocates and practitioners of segregation, composting and recycling. Several of them had been segregating successfully for years, and had made strong and often successful attempts to get their neighbours to start composting. One lady even collects all her neighbours’ kitchen waste herself and uses it in her own compost pit, completely free of charge!
One of the participants, Mr Sridhar Rao Chaganti, told us about how he had experimented with commercial composting products and failed initially. After several attempts, he improvised upon the products and successfully created his own system, which he has been following for over ten years. The rest of the gathering eagerly asked if they could visit his home to see his system and he kindly obliged, inviting everyone to come to his home and attend a demo - exactly the kind of community led action we were hoping for.
At the time of writing this blog, the aforementioned demo proposed by Mr Sridhar has now been fixed as our next Discussion Series event where he will show us his composting system and also talk about grey water recycling.
We hope to see this gradual progression in the structure of the Discussion Series, as more community knowledge is exchanged, and more technical expertise is collectively gained by everyone. Our intention with the Discussion Series was not to be the agency disseminating all the knowledge, but to facilitate through discussion, a completely community led knowledge and skills dissemination network. If you want to know more about us or take part in the next Discussion Series session, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow our facebook page for updates.