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Handling garbage abroad

How do cities around the world handle their garbage? Here are the results of Mumbai 59's investigations.

In summer Mumbai's garbage bins stink. In the monsoon, they turn roads into gutters. Can something be done about it? To answer that question we asked people around the world all but one of them being former residents of Marol how garbage is handled in their own cities. Here are their answers:

Springfield, Illinois (USA)

We put all our garbage in plastic bags that are specially made to handle garbage. They either have built-in ties or we put a separate tie to ensure that the bags are sealed.

The city we live in signs contracts with garbage collection companies to collect the garbage. On designated garbage days which are usually set by blocks or neighbourhoods, we place the garbage in garbage cans at the kerb. The garbage then gets collected around 7 am onwards in special garbage compactor trucks. These trucks carry the garbage to a central collection station where they are loaded onto 65 feet long dump trucks. These dump trucks then carry their loads to the landfill or city dump.

This process is repeated for the recyclables and landscape wastes. The difference is that the recyclables newspapers, glass and plastic are separated at the sorting station. The landscape waste is ground into woodchips which may be used in parks around trees.

London, UK

Our garbage is collected once a week by the local council (the equivalent of Mumbai's muncipality). They come by in a special truck and collect all household waste on a fixed day of the week. Different areas have different collection days. The garbage is usually stored in used supermarket bags, and then put in a larger ''black-bin bag''. This is then tied up and put outside one's property, ready for collection. If you miss the collection, then you either go to the ''council refuse sites'', which have recycling facilities, or wait till the next week. We pay a set fee every year for the provision of various facilities, ie police, fire, refuse collection, water/sewage, and other public services.

Some areas have opted to contract out their work, i.e. a private firm goes around and collects the garbage. This has led to cheaper "tax" bills for consumers in those areas.

Springfield, Missouri (USA)

Garbage collection is done here in one of two ways. In Oklahoma City, where I lived earlier, we paid a monthly fee of around $25 for garbage collection plus sewage. The collection of garbage is done either two or three times a week. The city assigns different days and times for each neighbourhood. It is usually three days apart. If they collect on Monday then the next collection is on Thursday or Friday. The garbage is mostly collected between 5 am and 10 am. But each neighbourhood has a fixed time.

The garbage has to be placed in plastic garbage bags tied at the top. The bags are available in different sizes. These bags have to be kept outside your residence along the road by the specified time in the morning, else they will not be picked up. The garbage truck drives along the kerb to pick these bags up. These bags can also be put into a plastic container with a lid on it. The garbage truck usually has one or two men who hang out of the back, pick these garbage bags and throw them into the truck.

Some cities or neighbourhoods have special containers in which people can put the garbage bags; these are kept out on garbage collection days. The garbage truck has a mechanical hand which lifts the containers and empties them on to its back. These containers are given to the residents on loan; a deposit has to be paid for them. There are special days in a month when only special garbage like big wooden logs, recyclable materials etc are collected. These have to be kept bundled up and not scattered around.

If you live in an apartment then the garbage collection fee is paid by the apartment owners. This amount is collected as part of your rent. There is a common garbage collection box for the entire apartment. This special metal box can be picked up by the garbage truck with its mechanical hand.

Note that the garbage is collected by private companies. We pay the city and the city pays them. In Springfield, Missouri where I live now, we have three private companies that collect garbage. You can contact any of them. You do not have to pay the city. For Indian apartments, such private collection might work but it's expensive.

Hong Kong
In Hong Kong, you're never more than 100 yards away from a garbage bin (typically bright yellow in colour, and including an ash-tray). These are emptied a couple of times a day by the sanitation department.

Every floor in every high-rise building has a "hopper room," maintained by the building management. In these rooms are large plastic garbage bags (inside large bins), into which residents dump their rubbish. These are cleared twice a day.

Also, for larger piles of rubbish, there are garbage tips in every locality.These are cleared every night by tip trucks. Even in these exposed tips, garbage is stuffed into black plastic bags, so there's very little smell.

But Hong Kong's sewage treatment facilities are woefully inadequate by first-world standards. A large amount of raw sewage ends up in the South China Sea.