Trash Initiative in Pune

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Cummins India employees worked with residents of a ward in Pune to promote separating their waste to reduce the trash disposed in a landfill.

Part of Cummins’ Mission is to “demand that everything we do leads to a cleaner, healthier and safer environment.” An Environmental Challenge Project in Pune, India is making a big difference in all three ways.

The city of 4 million people produces a lot of garbage – as much as 1,000 tons of trash or more per day. The waste is taken to a makeshift landfill where vultures, pigs and stray dogs are known to scavenge. Flies, cockroaches and rodents add to the misery. And the garbage can create an unbearable stench. (Watch the Zero Garbage video)

The problem is compounded by the fact that two villages border the 55-acre landfill. Residents regularly protest by blocking the trucks bringing garbage into their communities.

Cummins India partnered with Janwani, an initiative to improve the quality of life in Pune, to implement a trial program to significantly reduce the amount of waste that ends up in the landfill (To see a video on the project, click here).

The “Zero Garbage” project is taking place in one ward of the city but officials hope it might be a model for the rest of the city and the country, too.

Cummins purchased sorting bins for the 11,000 households and businesses in the ward. Then, more than 600 Cummins employees canvassed the area, urging residents through everything from door-to-door meetings to puppet shows to separate their wet and dry waste into two containers.

The wet waste is collected and placed in air-tight containers, creating methane gas that can be used to run power generators for public benefit. Pulling out the biodegradable waste, meanwhile, has reduced the amount of trash trucked to the landfill by nearly 8,000 pounds a day.

“Today, we feel really very happy that about 70 percent of the households have totally bought into this practice,” said Nagarajan Balanaga, Vice President – Human Resources for Cummins India.

The program is also building a stronger community by producing jobs for disadvantaged residents who frequently pick through trash with their bare hands to find items they can sell to scrap dealers and plastic recyclers.

The Zero Garbage project provides them with gloves and equipment to pick up the separated trash from households and businesses who pay them for the service. This regular source of income is allowing the workers to enroll their children in school rather than have them work beside them in the garbage.

“The deliverables on this project, all of the outcomes, have significantly exceeded our expectations,” said Raj Menon, Chief Operating Officer of Cummins India.

There’s still a long way before Pune’s garbage problem is solved. But it’s clear the Zero Garbage initiative is providing hope in the city for a cleaner, healthier and safer future….

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