Solid Waste Management Guidelines for Cleaning up Chennai post-floods

Information collated by Swetha Dandapani with support from experts and volunteers.


Types of waste that have been washed up in the floods and what can be done with them

1. Plastic Bottles – Recyclable
2. Polythene – Recyclable
3. Glass (Broken & Unbroken) – Unbroken glass could be recycled
4. Metal – Can be recycled
5. Paper & Cardboard – Mostly these are soaked, so non-recyclable (most soaked paper and cardboard can be composted)
6. Hazardous/ Medical Waste – Should not be touched without appropriate gear or knowledge
7. E-Waste – should be kept away from water and not opened in any way (can be recyled – many of the bigger waste recyclers have special e-waste handling capabilities)
8. Sanitary Waste – Segregated separated as reject waste. Packed in bright colored water-tight bag and discarded separately. Should not be flushed or incinerated. To be sent away as non-recyclables

How to Recycle?

· Get in touch with informal waste workers, waste pickers who must already be picking recyclable waste. They will give you the network of recycling
· If there is a scrap dealer (kabadiwaala) near your place, ask them the kind of waste they will take for recycling and give it appropriately – Use this link to find scrap dealers in Chennai.

There are many big recyclers who will come and pick up your recycled waste – Earth Recyclers, Paper Man, – please contact them. They also take e-waste.

What to do with the Non-Recyclable Waste?

· Coordinate with the municipal corporation and arrange for pickup vehicles to take the bags of garbage collected as non-recyclable

Please separate compostable waste and put it in a compost pile. Since it’s already soaking wet, it will quickly compost. You can take help of composting tips from this blog.

Can we compost anything from the rubble?

Most of the waste will all be mixed together; so composting these are seriously doubtful. However, fresh food waste generated now (in relief camps and otherwise) could be composted.
For more information please see:
and contact the resource persons in Chennai:

What can be composted: Vegetable and fruit peels, egg shells, tea and coffee concoctions, little tit-bits of paper, leftover cooked food in small quantities/ Food scraps when cooking; wasted food, food plates if served in banana leaves, newspapers or the pakumattai plates, rotting wood if not particle board, newspaper, cardboard, leaves, tree branches and twigs chopped into small bits.

In case you are collecting waste for composting, please try to plan in advance, where exactly the composting will happen (either call the helplines mentioned below or if home composting, be aware of the capacity). Keep the waste for composting, constantly covered with dry leaves or newspapers.

Please note, only as an Ad-hoc measure, till services resume:

You can also use a potted plant’s pot as a container for composting. You will have to keep covering each layer of kitchen waste with (based on availability):
-Sawdust powder
-Cocopeat powder
-Simple soil will also work
-Newspaper chippings
-Something known as a Remix powder (please source it from contacts given here: )


To clean up the mess around one’s own area
To remove hazardous waste away asap
To maximize recycling

Equipment Required:

*Large Cement/Rice bags for collection
*Gloves – rubber gloves or gloves like in this picture since plastic gloves won’t stand the work involved. Please try to minimize use of disposable gloves – we are adding to the problem we are seeking to mitigate
*Hard boots to go in the midst of rubble or waterproof shoes
*Surgical masks (since in most places, the garbage will be emanating stench) (again – reuse these masks. You do not have to throw them away after one use!)
*Overalls for workers

Other important points before starting:

Earmark an area that you will clean up for a particular session. Have a multiple day plan for your entire neighborhood. An ideal plan could be – clean up of drains first, followed by areas right outside households, and finally common areas
Identify plan to transport the waste to appropriate places (you will need a Tata Ace or DCM based on the quantity of waste generated)

Precautions for Volunteers (taken from this page and Paperman)

*Cover your legs completely before standing in water. Wear slipper, wear a plastic cover over it and tie it above your ankle tightly. Make sure it doesn’t tear. Boots are an excellent option
*ALL volunteers for cleanups MUST wear gloves at the minimum. There are many broken glass pieces and other sharp things out there. The last thing we need is an epidemic due to infections among volunteers.
*Get a tetanus vaccine right away. See the page posts for centers that offer vaccine and medical camps. Check this link for a list of camps. 
*Wash your hands and legs with antiseptic like dettol or a pinch of potassium permanganate in a bucket of water before stepping inside your house.

· Try to pass on gloves & boots to municipal workers who will not have any protective equipment
. Step 1: The priority is to segregate hazardous waste from non-hazardous waste. Remove the hazardous waste (medical, batteries, nails, copper, bronze, asbestos) first and bag them up and send them to hospitals (for medical waste) for appropriate disposal (if this does not exist, please encourage workers to use gloves and send them to the landfill)
. Step 2: Next, pick out large-sized waste, which are recyclable (large pieces of plastic, ceramic, scrap metal) and send them separately for recycling (to scrap dealer)
. Step 3: For smaller sized garbage, try to pick out recyclables first, after that collect all non-recyclables and bag them up
· Coordinate with scrap dealers to send recyclable waste
· Coordinate with municipal corporation to send non-recyclable waste to landfill
· Medical waste needs to be given away to large hospitals which have the capacity to dispose off the waste appropriately
. If there is a deep pit of stagnant water, wait for water to recede before picking up waste/ garbage
. Be careful while handling broken glass. Put it along with non-recyclable waste
. If using hands is tough in some places, use a large garden spade like this to collect waste and accumulate them in bags


What to do?

*Encourage households & relief camps to segregate waste into dry, food & sanitary categories
*In medical camps, all hazardous medical waste needs to be taken back to hospitals which have appropriate disposal units
*Set up composting units to compost food waste. If terracotta is unavailable, large plastic buckets could be used with holes drilled (for households). Use newspapers and leaves along with food scraps to avoid stench from composting
*Try to place bins large sized community bins. Get municipal vehicles to empty these
*Do not just randomly throw away waste on the streets. Either give to scrap dealers or bag them up and give them to municipal collection vehicles
*Offer large sized bins for relief camps and encourage people to use it.


*Sanitary waste is completely non-recyclable. In relief camps however, disposable sanitary waste is more convenient for people. So, ensure that there is a separate closed bin for sanitary waste and each piece needs to be wrapped in newspaper before disposal
*Segregate as a third separate stream of waste as reject waste
*Wrap it in an identifiable, leak-proof bag (preferably bright in color) for collection
*Do not incinerate if the product contains chlorinated wood pulp and plastic unless specific incinerators are provided.
*Never flush it down toilets. It leads to clogging of drains which will lead further to rain water clogging.

Call the following numbers for help with waste collection/ coordinating clean ups:

For scrap dealers, waste pickup and general clean up drives:

Paperman: 8015269831 (
Kabadiwalla Connect: 9884467608 (Farhaad) or 9840295081 (Siddharth) (

For composting:
Daily Dump:

Navneeth Raghavan
Aarthi Apartments
4 Haddows Road,
1st Street
Chennai 600 006

Phone: +91 044 – 28260780
Mobile: +91 98400-82607

Ensolve Technologies LLP
No.24/11, Parishat Apartments,
3rd floor, West Wing,
North Boag Road,
T Nagar, Chennai 600 017

Tamil Nadu, INDIA
Phone: + 91 44 28343126
Mobile: + 91 9840013035

The Magic Bean:


Rubber Gloves

Featured image: AFP (Used for representational purposes only)

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