:: Specific Design Brief

ITDG 1: Sustainability campaign - further information


Galle is a large town in the southern province of Sri Lanka. Waste dumping has long been a problem and has created health and environmental issues within the community. The size of the problem has increased in recent years as the relative proportion of paper, glass and plastics as a percentage of total waste has increased.

PLASTIC WASTE. Plastics create particular problems as they resist decay and can take centuries to break down naturally. Habit means that plastic waste is often thrown into the street where it accumulates and attracts vermin and insects which in turn spread disease. Since biodegradable waste is also commonly thrown onto the street this too can produce chemical reactions that leave environmental and health problems. Water and food are contaminated and in some areas there are high rates of dengi fever.

PLASTIC RECYCLING is a complicated process and has often not been thought to be economically cost-effective because of high levels of impurity in household waste. Impurities result because plastics are not sorted properly. Some may contain a mixture of plastics, others have additives that reduce the purity of recycled material. Often several different types of plastics are collected together, making sorting critical and potentially expensive. If plastics could be sorted and collected within households, the problem of mixed plastics would potentially be overcome. Separation into Low Density Plastic (LDP), High Density Plastic (HDP) Polypropylene (PP) and Polythylene (PE) in the households therefore makes sense.

Plastic bags being used to grow seedlings in a Sri Lankan gardenA COMMUNITY WASTE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM.
Pushpa Nilathi is the Manager of the Arthacharya Foundation in
Galle. The organisation was established to work with the local council (called Municipal Councils in Sri Lanka). The foundation began working with some low income community groups in the Dadella area of Galle to encourage them to collect plastic waste at household level, ensure it was properly separated, and then to work as a co-operative group to recycle it into pellets for re-sale. They also encouraged the groups to collect and compost their organic waste.

At first, three community groups, usually comprising mostly women, were chosen to be involved. It was so successful that within two years, the community involvement had doubled.


Some of the factors showing its success are
• There has been no dengi fever in the project area for the last 18 months
• The cost of collecting waste to the Municipal Council has fallen dramatically
• The community groups are able to sell compost produced from their organic waste.
• The price at which they can sell compost has doubled in two years as people have realised its quality
• Each community group has formed a children’s branch, all 5 to 15 year olds in the community being members who are educated about waste and participate both in collection and recycling
• People in the communities are proud of their progress and the improvement in the environment in which they live
• Untreated plastics can be sold for 8 rupees per kg. Coloured polythene pellets sell for 35 rupees and colourless for up to 45 rupees
• The average income per household involved is 650 rupees with a much better quality of life as a result – three meals a day are now common whereas previously one was more likely.
• Children can now go to school because parents can afford the fees
• There is a much greater sense of community. They work together on committees. With the youth programme, and in bargaining with the Municipal Council and buyers of the plastic.
• The status of the women involved has gone up. Men were initially hostile to them being committee members are would try to force them not to attend. Now the men drop women at the committee meetings and look after children whilst they are away.
• Habits have changed fundamentally – waste is now seen as a source of income. The message is, ‘Solid waste is money, don’t throw it away.’

A poster currently displayed in the Galle office.EXTENDING THE PROGRAMME
Pushpa and her team are delighted with the success so far but want to extend the system into more areas of
Galle and elsewhere in Sri Lanka. However, doing so has proved more difficult than they imagined. So, they are looking for ways in which they can attract more communities to follow the lead. They have already developed some publicity ideas for themselves but are also hopeful that some other ideas may result from SDA. They believe there are a number of different possibilities.

• The general population of Galle. Although the scheme targeted poor communities, there is no reason why a wider population should not be involved in waste management schemes. It might be that the community groups could offer a collection system into wealthier areas. A publicity campaign for the general public which showed some of the benefits of involvement might attract more interest. Similarly, a 3D sorting or collection method that also advertised the scheme would be beneficial. The fewer words involved the better. If necessary, any text could be translated into the local language, Sinhalese.
• Young people are critical to the future success of any waste management system. Secondary schools produce their own waste management problems in Sri Lanka as much as anywhere else. A poster and a 3D prototype for use in secondary schools could be designed and made.
• Primary school children are also important. They might enjoy learning about waste from an illustrated story with accompanying pop-up characters or a card/board game based on collecting and separating waste.