Talking trash

Anjali Jhangiani
Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Chatting up Divya Ravichandran about her firm Skrap, and how she is trying to minimise the waste by partnering with events like music fests and marathons

A major part of planning that most events give a miss is the waste management. Taking this up is Skrap, an environment sustainability firm that helps events and organisations adopt sustainable practices and zero waste solutions. Skrap was founded by Divya Ravichandran last year after a massive fire broke our in Deonar Dumping Ground, Mumbai. It made her aware of the unscientifically managed waste and how very little thought is given to this issue. 

Skrap aims at reducing the amount of waste sent to the landfills, by minimising waste generation and maximising resource recovery. We speak to her about partnering with music festivals, marathons and other big events to help minimise the waste.

Events and sustainability
“For events, we help implement a comprehensive management and waste reduction plan. We work closely with event organisers  from the pre-event planning phase right up to the execution phase so as to help them become a zero waste and disposable-plastic free event,” says Ravichandran. 
In the past year, Skrap has worked with events such as Mahindra Blues, YouTube Fanfest and SBI Green Marathon. And in the future they will be working with music festivals, flea markets and corporate events.

Having a proper waste segregation infrastructure is a key step for implementing waste management at events, she points out. “Single dustbins should be replaced with a two-bin system for recyclable waste and biodegradable waste. Having clear signages for dustbins can help guide attendees and food vendors on the waste segregation process,” she says.

Ravichandran advises that at the backend, it is essential to have a team of workers to further segregate and sort the waste. “While mixed waste is mostly garbage and is sent to landfills, segregated waste can be recycled or reused. Recyclable materials such as paper, plastic, metal and glass can be sent to recyclers to be turned into new products. Biodegradable waste such as food scraps and compostable plates can be sent to composting sites to be converted into soil nutrients,”she says. 
Other materials such as decor and banners can be reused by the event organisers or given to NGOs that can make use of it. “By simply following these steps, events can lower their environmental impact and divert over 70-80 per cent of their waste away from the landfills and also stay compliant with the government rules,” says she. 

Changing the attitude towards waste
The amount of waste generated at music festival really depends on the scale of the event. But implementing waste management can be tedious at first due to the involvement of various stakeholders. “Which is why working with professional waste management firms or having an in-house sustainability team to manage this is important. We’ve managed anywhere between 500 kg to around 12 tonnes of waste at music festivals. We’ve managed to divert 80-90 per cent of the waste away from the landfills by ensuring that it is segregated correctly and then sent for recycling, composting, converting into bio gas, or reusing,” says Ravichandran.
 
The numbers prove how important it is to not only keep the venue clean during the event but also after it is over. “How and where the event waste is discarded has mostly been neglected. Unfortunately, this means majority of the event’s waste is likely to be dumped in landfills, burnt, or buried in vacant land,” shares she. 

But there is good news — event organisers are increasingly becoming aware of the need for proper waste management as the pollution control boards are stepping up on enforcement of the government’s Solid Waste Management rules. “This means organisers must start investing in proper waste management for their events. During this initial transition phase, it may seem more expensive compared to the alternative of dumping waste indiscriminately into landfills. But in the long run, the environmental benefits, the goodwill generated, and monetary savings from waste reduction measures can significantly outweigh this,” she says. 

Stepping up
With the help of Skrap, the upcoming multi-genre music festival Bacardi NH7 Weekender 2018 promises to be a zero-waste event. “All waste generated at the event will be segregated, sorted and then sent for recycling, composting or reusing. Last year, over 80-85 per cent of the waste generated at the festival was diverted away from the landfills, and this year we aim to improve this further. Minimising the use of disposable plastics has been a key focus so the food court will be a no-plastic zone. Food stalls will be using only compostable serving-ware made from biodegradable, eco-friendly materials such as areca leaves and sugarcane bagasse. These will be composted at the end of the festival and returned to the soil,” says Ravichandran, adding that the crew at the event will be using reusable ceramic or stainless steel plates and cutlery so there’s minimal packaging waste generated. 

Encouraging visitors to be responsible towards the environment, the event will offer discounts at the bar on reusing their cups for refills. “Plastic straws which are typically a big litter item, have been banned at the festival and now replaced with paper straws which will be provided only on request,” says she adding that the event is also committed to curbing food wastage through a comprehensive food donation programme in place to share any excess leftover food with underprivileged communities.

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