Rubbish!

Bangalore is facing a changing environment for the disposal of waste. Waste can no longer be transported to Mandur, as this landfill has been recently closed on court orders. A new, decentralized plan for managing waste is being implemented by the municipal bodies of Bangalore. ₹ubbish! makes the players experience Bangalore’s waste crisis first hand, by dropping them in the middle of this situation. How will the players collectively tackle Bangalore’s waste crisis? And how will the players balance between economic and environmental constraints?

 

₹ubbish! challenges players to tackle the waste crisis in Bangalore, by playing the role of John, a DWCC manager. The players’ responsibilities include collection and disposal of dry waste and they need to ensure a clean city. Each player runs his own DWCCs, starting with one DWCC in one ward. Every round, waste is generated in all wards, however, the players can only collect the waste that is generated in the wards that have a DWCC. The remaining waste will be dumped in the landfill. Having a certain capacity, when this landfill overflows, all players lose. If the players manage to create a DWCC in every ward, they all win the game.

 Game phases

Every round is consists of four phases. In the first phase, players can choose to invest in buying a new DWCC. This will allow them to collect the waste generated in this ward (and consequently, keep it from being dumped in the landfill) and also provides them with more storage space to store their collected waste. Additionally, the player has the opportunity to work with a waste expert. These waste experts  have in-depth knowledge about waste segregation and allow the player therefore to segregate dry waste in order for them to add value to their waste. After having made these decisions, the players will collect the generated garbage in the ward they have a DWCC present.

 

Three types of garbage are generated every round. Mixed waste consists of dry waste mixed with wet waste, unfortunately this waste can not be recycled and therefore has to be sent to the landfill. Dry waste solely consists of dry waste and can be recycled, but has to be segregated (with the help of the  waste expert) before selling to recycling industries. Last, but not least, there is segregated waste. This is waste that is already segregated in different types of waste, for example PET bottles, carton boxes, milk covers etc. This waste does not require any segregation and can be sold immediately. The waste that is not collected at the end of this phase, is dumped in the landfill.

 

After collecting and segregating the waste, players can sell their waste to recycling industries. To complete one full round, each player takes a chance card. These cards depict an event that mirrors reality in a way that can either affect the individual player, or all players collectively in either a good way, or a bad way. For example:

 

Truck strike: Truck drivers are on strike because they didn’t receive their salaries from the contractors for the past 4 months. DWCCs don’t receive waste next round. Keep this card over the board until next Chance Phase”.

 

A more detailed introduction to the game can be found in the presentation below.

 

Next Bangalore

 

Playtests

We are in the process of user testing our third prototype of the game. Playing in the game with various experts of different backgrounds, resulted in some very unexpected and interesting observations. Until now, we have had three external game sessions. One with Lukas Schaefer, an urban environmental manager, one with Cisco and the MediaLab Amsterdam and one with visitors of Next Bangalore.

 

 

Given that we have had multiple playtests, we can now move away from testing the game mechanics and slowly move towards a focus on gameplay, used strategies and player interactions. Most players experienced during playing, that actually creating a DWCC in every ward, while keeping the landfill from overflowing, was very hard to do. Economic constraints have to be balanced with environmental constraint.

Interestingly, in the Cisco and MediaLab session, Gijs Gootjes (project manager MediaLab) commented on the other players when they kept money, instead of spending it to keep the landfill clean. Encouraging each other to buy more waste, even if this meant economic loss. Other players, did not really seem to mind the landfill,  and were less drawn to cooperation with waste expert. They only bought the already segregated waste, and dumped the rest in the landfill. Some other interesting quotes: “Can I make the landfill bigger?”; “We can’t afford to be nice”; “Can I upgrade my DWCC to deal with wet waste?”; “Can I suggest you maybe purchase a DWCC?”. We noticed that having a discussion about the waste management crisis after playing the game becomes an easy transition, as the game provides the players with insights that mirror reality.

 

 

 


The last step in our project now, will consist of playtesting a few more times, including one playtest with Hasirudala. Also, we will move away from the paper prototype and build the final prototype with a little more volume to it.

 


 

How we designed waste profiles in ₹ubbish!

In ₹ubbish! each ward in Bangalore has a specific waste profile, which means that each ward generates a different amount of waste every round. What also differs from ward to ward is the amount of waste that actually reaches the DWCC. This is a reality in the city of Bangalore, some wards have a higher population, therefore they generate more waste.

After searching for some data we got our hands on detailed information about the amount of waste a group of DWCCs receives daily. This data was given to us by Hasirudala, and it was extremely helpful since now it was possible to make assumptions that were faithful to reality. Hasirudala manages 33 DWCCs in Bangalore, and they maintain information about the incoming and outgoing of waste daily.

From this data, we noticed that just a few wards actually received high amounts of waste daily. From 33 DWCCs, only 2 receive an average higher than 500 kg/day. And more than 50% receive less the 250 kg/day. The rest stays between 250 kg/day and 500 kg/day.

We used this information to create a simplified version of Bangalore. From 198 wards in the city we narrowed down to 18. Since the goal of the game is to build a DWCC in every ward, if the game had 198 wards each session would last a lifetime. Below you can see the current map of the game.

Rubbish! MapRubbish! Simplified map of Bangalore

This table shows our model of the wards in Bangalore and how much waste each of them generates every round. We also added how much that would cost to the player each round. The proportion between mixed, dry and segregated waste is something we had to speculate, since none of the DWCC we contacted could provide us with such detailed information.

Needless to say, this was a design decision we took to model this extremely complex context. Everything we designed is based in reality, not an exact representation of it.

Below are some of the cards we made to represent the storage in a DWCC, their waste profile and how much it costs per round.

DWCC Storage Cards

DWCC storage cards

Disconnected waste stakeholders

between hands and blackspots
garbage in the land
garbage in my thoughts

Cities are ecosystems. Urban ecosystems. A community of living organisms (humans, animals, trees) in combination with nonliving components (like streets, cars, buildings) interacting as a system. Therefore, we, the “living organisms”, have to do our best to keep this ecosystem up and working.

After a couple of weeks researching and talking to several people about the waste management situation in Bangalore I started to imagine the city also as a living organism, like a tree. When the leaves of a tree falls from their branches, it reaches the ground and then becomes part of the soil. This soil is later absorbed by the roots of the tree and contains several nutrients to nurture the entire tree. Additionally, the living leaves perform photosynthesis that uses carbon dioxide (and water) to generate energy for the tree, releasing oxygen to the environment.

This is a sustainable process that keeps the tree alive. What’s happening now in Bangalore regarding waste management is utterly unsustainable. It’s comparable with the tree ceasing its photosynthesis, for that reason cutting off the recycling process of the air. Simultaneously, the tree sends its leaves elsewhere, breaking the nurturing of the soil and, consequently, damaging it’s own subsistence. Crazy right? Sounds like nonsense, but if Bangalore were a tree, that would be the case.

The slight research we did in the past two weeks indicates that there are several issues in the waste management flow in Bangalore. From lack of awareness of the consequences of poor waste management, to deficiency in communication between stakeholders of the whole process; the overall garbage situation doesn’t look good. It’s like the unsustainable tree described above, the waste of the city is mainly sent to landfills instead of being recycled or converted into compost for reuse in agriculture.

On the next sections I will get deeper into this process and, finally, present what we agreed that would be a satisfying approach to this waste issue in Bangalore.

Bangaloreans (lack of) waste consciousness?

The amount of people that are concerned about the garbage in Bangalore is overwhelming. From local initiatives to larger institutes, people are working with recycling, composting and general awareness with all ages and groups about this messy subject. Unfortunately, this is just a small part of the Bangalorean population.

This week we went to Daily Dump to get more insights in their approach to this issue. Daily Dump is a company focused in designing and building solutions around waste management. They have a huge variety of products concerning segregation and composting that ranges from books to specific tools to assist in a waste-conscious lifestyle.

 

Daily Dump

Daily Dump office and their composting and segregation products
Photo credits: Sandro Miccoli

 

One main aspect about waste in Bangalore that we should take in consideration, is the culture of dumping garbage in the streets. After talking to several locals, we discovered that this was a natural thing to do, if you were living in Bangalore decades ago, since the waste generated by houses basically comprised organic material. This garbage, also know as wet waste, would then be spread around backyards and land around the houses, and would naturally decompose, becoming part of the earth again and restarting their cycle in a completely natural process.

With the economic growth of the city, combined with intense rural-urban migration, the consumption culture also transformed. Nowadays, along with this organic waste also exists a huge diversity of the so called dry waste, like plastics, glass, metal and so on. This kind of garbage doesn’t decompose easily, so it tends to pile up all around streets and corners, which are know as blackspots.

 

Blackspot

One of the inumerous blackspots in Bangalore
Photo credits: Sandro Miccoli

After 3 weeks living in Bangalore, I regularly saw piles of garbage in corners and in the streets. Although we talked to several people that are very concerned about waste management, what we see in the the city is another picture. We found that there is a noticeable behavioural barrier that’s rooted in a big portion of the Bangaloreans way of perceiving the waste that they generate. Instead of thinking of what happens after they dump their consumed goods, they prefer to distance themselves and ignore the problem by keeping it out of their sight. However, since it’s no longer a natural cyclic process, the problem will eventually return to them, by polluting their land, rivers and air.

 

smelly

Woman displeased with the smell caused by street garbage at the Madiwala Market
Photo credits: Sandro Miccoli

Where is the waste going?

Although there are several amazing initiatives to promote segregation of dry waste, some of those who segregate lose faith in their attitude, since there is, essentially, no formal initiative to collect segregated waste. The garbage collected around the city is, basically, thrown together in one truck and ultimately dumped, in the streets or in a landfill.

The waste in Bangalore that is recycled is mainly the result of the informal sectors’ efforts. The ragpickers manually segregate dry waste and search for valuable recyclable material in open dumps. They sell these goods to traders, who in their turn are connected with recycling industries. Another important informal dry waste dealers are the kabbadiwalla. They also collect and segregate waste to resell to traders, but the main difference from the ragpickers is that they gather their waste straight from households.

Essentially, the transportation of the waste mainly winds up in landfills and recycle centers. The small portion that doesn’t ends up in one of those two, become blackspots around the city. Currently, there is only one official landfill used by the trucks to dispose the city’s waste: Mandur. Mandur is a village in the outskirts of Bangalore, and has been used since the last landfill, Mavallipura, closed, in 2012. In June of this year, the state government set a four-month deadline (December 1st) for the municipality of Bangalore (BBMP) to find an alternative dump site, since the Mandur residents have been protesting because of this disastrous situation (The Times of India, 6/6/14).

Recently, the BBMP declared that they intend to reopen Mavallipura, even though the area still contains accumulated waste from the last time it was used (The Hindu, 11/09/14). However, BBMP announced that the landfill will be used purely to dump wet waste and convert it to compost. Now, some questions still remain: how will the municipality guarantee that the trucks will only take wet waste to the landfill? And what will happen with the tons of waste that are just laying there for the past 2 years? And the waste in Mandur?

 

Tragic situation at the Mandur landfill

Tragic situation at the Mandur landfill
Photo credits: Bhagya Prakash K from The Hindu

Simplified Garbage Flow

We analyzed this garbage flow in Bangalore and created a simplified model that has mainly four stages: Consumption, Collection, Transportation and Disposal. We are aware that before a product can be considered as waste it was created by a manufacturer and distributed to consumers. This step does not enter in our first analysis, considering that each industry has it’s own methods of production and distribution. The variety of types of waste is also very broad, from e-waste to several kinds of hazardous waste, and each of those have their own singularities.

 

Garbage Flow

Simplified Garbage Flow: Consumption; Collection; Transportation; Disposal

There are several stakeholders in this process: individuals to higher organizations; formal and informal sectors; and innumerous crucial participants of every single stage. We noticed that, in spite of considerable attempts of connecting these stakeholders, this group is extremely disconnected. Obviously, they are all connected because of one main component: garbage. Although they share this common element, the relationship between the different stages of waste management is inadequate.

In our research we found several projects regarding source waste segregation, that is supposed to be one of the most effective ways to achieve sustainability in waste management. However, there is no formal collection service that takes into account segregated waste, invalidating any attempt of source segregation.

The informal wastepickers take responsibility in manually segregating dry waste to, eventually, sell the most valuable items to traders and recycling industries. The Hasirudala organization works on integrating the wastepickers and other informal workers to the formal sector. However, we consider that the extent of this integration is questionable, since we heard stories of the informal sector going against some of the Hasirudala’s initiative. This is a subject that we should get deeper in to better understand the needs of the informal sector.

 

Centralized Garbage Flow

Centralized waste management

The question that we keep asking ourselves is: where should we focus on in order to cause a heavy impact in the big picture of this waste situation in Bangalore?

One option is to work at source. Segregation and composting, if done well, can cause a huge impact in later phases of the flow. However, if the next steps can’t handle the efforts made initially, maybe we should approach with another perspective. Recycling is also a great solution for excessive dry waste, but it also needs some connection between initial and later steps in the garbage system.

Along these lines, we noticed that there is a lack of communication between these stakeholders. If the individual is not immersed in this waste consciousness mindset, he or she probably won’t be aware of the consequences of poor waste management.

Therefore, we concluded that an interesting approach to this problem is to investigate the connection between the stakeholders and attempt to support the communication between each participant in the process.

 

GarbageFlow-04

Interconnected waste management ambition

  

First Cisco meeting

This week we also went to Cisco’s Bangalore office to present them these initial findings and meet for the first time the Amsterdam team.

 

Cisco Bangalore Office and TelePresentation between Amsterdam and Bangalore

Cisco Bangalore Office and TelePresentation between Amsterdam and Bangalore
Photo credits: Sandro Miccoli

 

During this meeting we received valuable feedback from Cisco about our analysis and some suggestions for our next steps. The most important observation was to work hard on our problem statement. Basically, we need to use our creativity to ask the right question about this garbage situation in Bangalore.

It was also nice to see that in their office they have waste awareness posters and that they also segregate their dry waste.

 

Waste management at the Cisco Bangalore office

Waste management at the Cisco Bangalore office
Photo credits: Sandro Miccoli

References

Daily Dump, Trash Tour Trail booklet

H N Chanakya, “Towards a sustainable waste management system for Bangalore”, CST, Bangalore.

Times of India, “BBMP can dump garbage at Mandur for 4 more months”, <http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bangalore/BBMP-can-dump-garbage-at-Mandur-for-4-more-months/articleshow/36119370.cms>

Ramani, V. Chitra, “BBMP sets its sights on Mavallipura”, <http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/bbmp-sets-its-sights-on-mavallipura/article6401893.ece>

The Hindu, “BBMP looks for ways to deal with city’s trash”, <http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/bbmp-looks-for-ways-to-deal-with-citys-trash/article3834645.ece>

Pushby DonBLC 123 from The Noun Project
Garbage Truck by Edward Boatman from The Noun Project
Rubbish by chiccabubble from The Noun Project
Network by Brennan Novak from The Noun Project
DNA by Zoe Austin from The Noun Project