First time I heard the word ‘segregation’ was in my school history text book where the segregation of the blacks (known as ‘negroes’ those days) was practiced in United States of America. I was quite amused when our Municipal Corporations adopted the word to educate us about garbage management as a part of the ‘Swacch Bharat’ campaign. Pamphlets were distributed, big adverts filled the newspapers, the ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s were screamed out of ‘mic’s fitted to vans over and over again and we were up to our ears with the ‘segregation’ and ‘segregation’. People had been even threatened with prosecution in case they did not follow the rules.
We were told to dump all the wet garbage generated in the house and kitchen separately and to collect all the dry waste such as paper, plastic, thermocole etc separately. A group of items such as sanitary napkins, torch cells, e waste etc were all to go into different bins, some of them to facilitate recycling. The Corporation would not be responsible for the garden waste from cuttings, trimmings and repotting. It was left to the resources of the house owner to dispose them off.
A laudable idea and we were all eagerly looking forward to garbage free Bengaluru. Ideas were even solicited for the disposal of waste. When I wrote about making it compulsory to fit all kitchen sinks with blades as they have in US where the kitchen waste could be blended into a liquid and disposed off , no one paid any attention to it.(Probably recycling it for farms was a better idea for the Agro people). I had even seen how the dry garbage was separated on a conveyor belt in a European movie and was much impressed.
Well, anyway, being a conscientious citizen, I decided to be meticulous about the segregation of garbage. I kept two separate bins and made sure that the wet and dry garbage did not get mixed up. But not my maid! She considered it a futile exercise as she argued the garbage chaps would mix it all up again. In the house upstairs, my nephew and his wife – a modern ‘dink’ couple who believed in mostly e marketing thus generating lot of garbage lived, the maid with none to supervise or object would mix up all the waste and bring it down in a big black bag and dump it in one or the other bin.
One day when I came out in the morning, I saw that the bin had been upset by a dog in the night. The black bag dumped the previous day by the maid had burst and all the stale food with all the Styrofoam cups, plastic spoons, plastic zip bags etc had been strewn all over my concrete driveway ! The maid was on leave that day. So, I sat and mopped up all the garbage, wet and dry, segregated it and scrupulously put them in the two bins.
It was time for the garbage collector to come. He came in a van, picked up the two bins and emptied them simultaneously and probably into a single container kept in the van. I was shocked. I asked him, ”I took so much time to segregate the dry garbage from the wet one and you are mixing up both?” He grinned and said, “Only for today ma’m” and walked away nonchalantly.