Here is how a Chennai apartment is segregating waste, even during COVID-19


The Atrium, an apartment in Thiruvanmiyur has been taking steps towards sustainable living by segregating waste, despite many challenges during the lockdown. Pic: Aishwarya Ram

The COVID-19 outbreak has slowed down Solid Waste Management (SWM) across the city, with all the composting and segregation centres in 162 locations closed. Most residential areas and other gated communities have struggled to segregate their waste during the lockdown due to the lack of in-house waste management facilities and staff. Awareness around the subject is low, and the motivation to initiate the process is also missing.

However, in the midst of this, The Atrium, an apartment complex in Thiruvanmiyur has managed to keep the operations of waste management going.

The Atrium community started waste segregation with a systematic and meticulous approach in December 2018, a month before the Chennai Corporation made it mandatory to do so as per the Solid Waste Management, 2016  rules. The apartment’s management committee actually started it a month in advance, to familiarise the residents with the process. It also formed a five-member sub-committee to coordinate the process for all 187 flats in the complex. 

How is it done?

The sub-committee did thorough research on SWM practices in other gated communities across the city before finalising the current practice, according to which the waste is segregated into organic, recyclable and toxic/rejects.

Each house is given green and red bins and a raffia bag for disposing of their organic waste, toxic/ rejects and recyclables respectively.

The recyclable waste is sold to a scrap dealer and returns are split among the housekeeping staff as incentive. E-waste is collected every few months by retail consumer electronics store Croma.

The toxic waste/rejects are disposed of in the Corporation dustbins just outside the apartment. This is later cleared by the conservancy workers from the Greater Chennai Corporation.

The organic waste is composted on the premises. The sub-committee decided to invest in Aaga bins, sold by Bengaluru-based Daily Dump, as they are sustainable and help to maintain and distribute oxygen in the wet waste, which produces manure.

The apartment complex generates about 120-150 kgs of wet waste on a daily basis, which is transferred to these bins along with coco peat and microbes. This method is followed everyday without fail and has led to the production of high-quality manure. This manure is sold to the residents, local nurseries and used in maintaining the apartment garden. 

This entire process has proved to be extremely successful and is now run seamlessly. The efforts by the management, sub-committee and housekeeping and administration staff have come to fruition. However, it was not always this easy. 

“The biggest challenge was getting the residents to understand and follow the process, and reminding them not to line the bins with plastic covers as the whole purpose would be defeated,” says Shanthi Ramachandran, a sub-committee member and the coordinator.

To ease the process, every block has designated volunteers and created a WhatsApp group for the residents to discuss and address any doubts or concerns. 

Impact of COVID-19

The Atrium has done well compared to other gated societies and residences in Chennai where SWM has taken a back seat due to the COVID outbreak. The apartment complex couldn’t segregate its waste for three weeks, when it recorded positive cases, but resumed the process once the patients recovered. 

Do you want to process and manage waste in your apartment community? 

* Pay attention to your waste. Make a note of the quantity of waste generated each day. 
* Have three different bins for dry waste, wet waste and hazardous waste regularly. Ensure segregation at source.
* Home composting is easy; check out how a Mumbai couple is doing it.
* Reduce and reuse your waste wherever possible.
* Inspire and motivate your neighbours. 

According to Alby John IAS, Regional Deputy Commissioner (South), there has been a definite downtrend in waste management due to the spread of COVID in the city. Speaking on the issue, he says that many apartment complexes lack the resources to segregate waste safely during a pandemic.  

Speaking about the Corporation resuming its SWM efforts in the South zone, Alby says “We are now focused on safely disposing of the medical waste and other waste that is generated. Hence, segregation has taken a back seat at the moment as the machinery including the SWM machinery is used to fight the pandemic. In a month or so, we should be able to wind up this operation and focus on SWM.”

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About Aishwarya Ram 3 Articles
Aishwarya Ram is pursuing MA Development at Azim Premji University, Bangalore. She is currently interning with Citizen Matters Chennai.


  1. Congratulations for your great initiative and excellent work!I need your suggestion and advice on one matter.That is if a glass bottle slips from one’s hand falls on the hard floor and breaks into many small pieces
    we use a broom and gather them at one spot seeing to it not even a speck of glass is left behind.After this what should be done?To which container should the glass pieces be transferred and how to dispose them safely as it is collected by housekeeper and then municipal van?Also for sharp things and needles.

    • Thank you for your comments, Mr.Natrajan. Broken glass cannot be recycled, so you can discard it in the red bin that is used for all toxic waste. Remember to wrap the broken glass or any other sharp objects like needles or razor blades in paper before disposing.
      Sorry for the late reply !

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