Bengaluru: “Why are the streets in your city littered with garbage?” In 2001, when a foreigner threw this question at German translator Wilma Rodrigues, had only an embarrassed smile as a response. It was not the first time Ms Rodrigues was being asked this question though. With confidence that waste is a precious resource that needs to be managed efficiently, she launched an organisation, Saahas. There’s no looking back since then and 13 years after its launch, Saahas is still focused on reducing waste.
The first campaign launched by Saahas was, ‘Carry your Own Shopping Bag’. Meenakshi Ravi, a member of Sahaas, says, “The idea behind the initiative was to introduce the concept of reusable shopping bags to reduce consumption and wastage of plastic carry bags. Saahas even convinced stores like Nilgiris to stop using plastic carry bags.”
For a city that was dependent on plastic bags to carry even small things, switching to reusable bags was a big step. But the campaign did make a difference. In 2003, Saahas introduced the concept of onsite waste management with its first corporate client, the country’s largest commercial bank. In 2004, Saahas started its association with a multi-national client, Texas Instruments. After crossing all hurdles, tying up with big names and bringing in change, today, Saahas manages seven tonnes of waste every day.
Another window Sahaas opened for Bengalureans was e-waste management. Saahas, in association with an Indo-German-Swiss initiative, has worked towards upgrading the informal sector which is actively engaged in e-waste recycling. Saahas is the only organisation in the state that has collection centres for household e-waste. Today, Saahas collects about three tonnes of e-waste every year which is then sent for safe recycling.
Among many achievements, Saahas is the implementing partner for ‘Establishing e-Waste Channels to Enhance Environment Friendly Recycling (WEEE-Recycle)’ programme. Saahas along with EMC2 has also launched the ‘Responsible Recycling of e-Waste Programme’ to channel household e-waste to authorised recyclers via schools. Saahas and Tetra Pak India began working together in 2008 to educate and motivate consumers to recycle Tetra Pak cartons. Meenakshi says, “Saahas has an ongoing programme with 14 Reliance Stores across Bengaluru for collection of post consumer Tetra Pak cartons.
“Currently, Saahas collects around 30 tonnes of such packs every month. This is then recycled by our partners to produce paper products, roofing sheets and chip boards. “Saahas is the exclusive distributors of 100% Tetra Pak recycled products in the state.” On Saahas’ decentralised waste management facilities, Meenakshi says, ‘Kasa Rasa’ units have the capacity to manage two tonnes of waste every day. ‘Kasa Rasa’ centres manage wet and dry waste collected from neighbouring areas. These centres are also e-waste collection points.