Solid Waste Management

Cover Photo
Feedback on SWM Proposal

Solid Waste Management (SWM) is one of the key functions of any municipality. It is prominent as a public health and aesthetic concern of the city. The Corporation of Chennai devotes a sizable proportion of it’s resources, time and labour to SWM, in spite of this hundreds of tons of waste go uncollected daily and slums and low income settlements in particular find themselves chronically under-served. Furthermore, the ‘garbage problem’ is usually framed only as a public health or aesthetic problem with the livelihood aspect scarcely acknowledged. This is despite the fact that thousands in the city are dependent on municipal solid waste for livelihood. Waste-pickers, itinerant buyers (known locally as pazhaya paper kaarans or raddiwalas), and scrap dealers all form a longstanding and robust network across the city as the informal sector in the waste industry. The informal sector (primarily, waste pickers) is responsible for most of the recycling that happens in the city and therefore for reducing the city’s carbon footprint. Yet the contributions of waste pickers are unrecognized and the formal system makes no accommodations for them. As a result they are highly vulnerable to harassment and displacement.

This page collects our research and activities focused both on informal workers and the waste sector in general. Our work centres on research and promotion of sustainable and inclusive Solid Waste Management in Chennai. It is aimed at filling gaps in knowledge and understanding about waste, it’s management and the actors involved through both qualitative and quantitative research. Our primary focus at this time is the role and contribution of ‘waste-pickers’ or informal waste workers (popularly known as ‘ragpickers’) in the city’s waste scenario.

The team conducted an extensive sample survey of approximately 750 households and 50 small commercial establishments on waste generation and composition in ward 173. The results of the survey are being used to propose a sustainable solid waste management model to the Corporation. We also hope that this methodology itself form a model for how to plan for SWM. The materials developed for this survey are presented here.

Aside from research, we engage with both Governmental agencies as well as a diverse group of non-governmental actors (including RWAs, workers groups, other researchers, etc.) to promote sustainable waste management and livelihood rights of waste-pickers.


Key Research

Materials From Public Meetings

Report on the Innovation Workshop (English) (1916)
Report on the Innovation Workshop (Tamil) (1657)
SWM and the Informal Sector: Experiences and Experiments from Pune, Bangalore and Mumbai (2466)
Brief on Research Presented on Solid Waste Management and the Informal Sector in Chennai at the Scenario Workshop (2301)
Law and Policy: Barriers to the Informal Sector (1612)
Bulk Waste Producers in Chennai: A Preliminary Investigation (3255)
Municipal Solid Waste Management: Role of the Informal Sector in Chennai (2112)

Documents Prepared for the Sample Survey in Ward 173

Brochure Given to Participating Households and Stores (English) (1577)
Brochure Given to Participating Households and Stores (Tamil) (1421)
Segregation Cheat Sheet (English) (4049)
Segregation Cheat Sheet (Tamil) (1493)
Segregation Sticker for dustbins (1172)
Instructions for survey participants (English) (1765)
Instructions for survey participants (Tamil) (1315)
Survey administered to household participants (1388)
Survey administered to shop participants (1594)

Written Outputs Submitted to the Corporation of Chennai

Brief Note on Sample Survey on Municipal Solid Waste in Ward 173 (10.10.2013) (1440)
Brief Note on ID Cards (09.10.2013) (1417)
Report on the Health Camp held at Perungudi dumpsite on 08-09.06.2013) (6933)


RTI Application Regarding SWM Operations (1304)
RTI Application Regarding SWM Staff (1250)
RTI Application Regarding SWM Budget and Finances (1236)
RTI Application Regarding SWM Private Contractors (1264)
Collated Responses to RTI Applications (1521)

Related Blogs More >>
September 25, 2014 by

While International organizations are still struggling to come to a consensus on ways to reduce our carbon foot print and pave way for sustainable development, some of the traditional practices followed by our communities are setting examples on this front … Continue reading

June 6, 2014 by

Earlier this month as part of our work to map the waste picker settlements, Vijay, Aruna and I visited a Corporation-run garbage transfer station located in north Chennai. A garbage transfer station is a place where garbage trucks empty their … Continue reading

February 14, 2014 by

The solid waste management team at TC is working to finalise a proposal based on our research and sample survey for sustainable and inclusive solid waste management (SWM) in Ward 173. What we are proposing is a decentralised system of … Continue reading

Press Events More >>
October 13, 2014

Transparent Chennai’s survey findings in Ward 173 and researcher Vijay Senthil Kumar have been quoted in this article in The Hindu.

October 13, 2014

Transparent Chennai, as a part of its Initiative on Waste, Informal workers and Chennai’s future, is organizing a meeting with community based organizations on October 14, 2014. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss a strategy paper on issuing … Continue reading

September 10, 2014

Transparent Chennai’s exhaustive mapping exercise on waste generation patterns in ward 173 has been quoted in this article in Times of India.