A huge 1,400-flat Brigade apartment in JP Nagar generates over 1,000 kgs of food waste per day. To dispose of this load of precious waste illegally, they pay anything between Rs 75,000-Rs 1,00,000 to a private contractor. Sometime ago, a vendor who specialises in biogas systems approached them offering a happily-ever-after solution. It called for a one-time investment of Rs 1,500 per flat which ran into Rs 21 lakh. The biogas unit, fitted with a genset, was capable of generating a good deal of power which would help them recover their investment in less than four years. There were other added benefits, too. But the community rejected the solution outright saying, “it’s too costly!”
Similarly, a 1,500-home Prestige apartment in Whitefield puts out 2,000 kgs of food waste each day. They tried processing their waste using an OWC given by the builder for sometime. Thanks to its inherent drawbacks, the community had to spend over Rs 1 lakh just to run the system as it called for a minimum of six-eight workers and considerable outgo on power consumption. One fine day, they ditched this and bribed a contractor to take away all their waste for the same cost.
The third case comes straight out of my list apartments who have approached me for consultancy. A 170-plus-home community located in North Bengaluru went restless when their beloved contractor started playing truant and the mixed waste started stinking in their basement for days on end. The management panicked. Somehow, despite all their sincere efforts, they could not find another contractor to dump it elsewhere. A concerned resident called me and sought a permanent solution as she found it really hard to deal with contractors on a daily basis. But the president of the management committee, who said he was a retired scientist, went weak on his knees when I said it would take a couple of lakhs to set up a sustainable system. His argument was this: “Why should we invest so much for a composting system when we can just throw it away?”
After some more efforts, the gentleman brought back the same contractor who was paid about Rs 10,000 per month before. I am told this fellow bargained for more to put the community out of its misery. The woman resident seemed genuinely distraught but was helpless. “The episode may replay anytime soon. I don’t know why people can’t make a sensible decision collectively.”
Basic math, anyone?
If you ever thought education and economic status influence our thought processes, think again. In all the above cases, all it needed was the members to put their heads together and do some basic math. Forget saving the environment or the planet… it’s too much of garbage to be processed between the ears. But the decisions all these communities made didn’t even make plain economic sense!
Case #1: They should have simply gone for the biogas system, processed all kinds of segregated organic waste, generated power, recovered their investment and then, lived happily ever after with free power and almost zero monthly outgo.
Case #2: The community did the right thing by ditching an inefficient OWC but instead of seeking refuge in an illegal activity, they could have looked around and invested in a better system and saved a good deal of money.
Case #3: In less than two years, this small community would have recovered its investment and never be at the mercy of a greedy contractor.
The delicacy of a debate
That’s exactly what goes missing when a few people assume power in a community and start cutting corners thinking that they are doing their best for everyone else even if it’s against the law. I often wonder, do they even have a decent debate on pros and cons before calling up a contractor? What’s the use of buying a home with all the hard-earned money if we don’t have a beautiful planet to put it on?
Pic source: agefotostock.com