When Data Claimed the Day (Post from Dec 2015)

This post had been sitting in our Drafts folder from 2015! We figured it’s about time we release…mostly because the conversation on data in the context of waste management is just as critical today as it was then. Enjoy!


December, 2015

At our core, Citizengage is a data company. We believe information can make each of us more connected to the impact of our decisions and, when delivered at critical moments, allow us to make better choices. We create and distribute information to improve outcomes of civic services like waste management.

A few days ago, we met with a new partner organization to showcase the data we’d captured so a key attendee would help get BBMP clearances for scaling up our efforts. It turned out to be one of our most inspiring days at Citizengage, as data claimed the day!

In this first juicy blog post since we got started, we’d like to take you through the nuances of what we’ve discovered along the way.

1. Waste generation is unpredictable. In the charts below, we’re sharing anonymized waste collection data for a set of 7 restaurants tracked between Nov 15-28, 2015. Each color band is a separate businesses so you can see how much waste that restaurant contributed to total collection, relative to others.

The key points to notice here is how unpredictable the fluctuations in waste production are from day to day across all restaurants. The restaurant in blue is one where we see highest output on Sundays, their busiest day but even other spikes in demand are not easily anticipated. Nov 18th and 25th were both Fridays but the output on the 25th was multiple times more than what was produced on the 18th.


Dry waste, on the other hand, seems to be better bounded in its fluctuations across all restaurants (i.e. the range in smaller) but there is again no pattern that can be attributed to a particular day of the week.



2. Most restaurants are non-compliant on bulk generator requirements. Although this post was written over two years ago, not much has changed in Bangalore when it comes to compliance on segregation and contracts with verification of end disposal of waste, as required by the BBMP since 2015. Less than half the restaurants in our initial study displayed basic awareness of and outcomes on segregating waste at source. Less than 40% even had the adequate number of bins to keep the required waste streams separated. Over 94% were NOT segregating waste at source, though this was required by law and would invite fines for non-compliance.


Today, we work with over 60 restaurants and businesses in Indiranagar where over 95% of their bins show segregation at source. As a result, over 86% of their waste is recycled or reused. We have contracts with all our customers and track 100% of their waste from bin to destination.

In the journey to get here, we were able to light up this public park with restaurant waste. When we started, the 5-ton plant was getting less than 200 kg of properly segregated waste. By choraling the restaurant community in the neighborhood to segregate their waste and take responsibility for where it was disposed rather than just getting it off their property, we were able to demonstrate that change is possible.

Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 12.55.44 pm.pngScreen Shot 2018-04-15 at 12.55.36 pm.png

3.  Ward-level averages are a poor estimation metric for planning operations. Shaded in pink below is the ward (112) in which we undertook mapping. Over the past few years, the number of restaurants and bulk generators in this area has boomed, but data at the municipal level is yet to be updated. The area in the black box is where we initially started serving customers. Today, we are spread across Bangalore.

The most shocking aspect of the exercise was that only 30 or so restaurants were listed as being in the ward when the municipality carried out the initial survey that made them believe a 5-ton biogas plant, which converts food waste into a gas that feeds a generator to provide power back up in the park shown above, would be sufficient for this ward. As you can see, there are hundreds of restaurants that populate this area and in our experience over the past few years, we’ve seen anywhere from 10 to 30 restaurants being able to provide 1 ton of waste per day, depending on their size and category (restaurant only, bar, cuisine, etc.).


4. Erratic waste output means operations to collect, transport, and process waste have to adapt in real-time. If there was one epiphany from this exercise that has shaped how Citizengage grew and where we focused in terms of building systems, processes, training, and technology, it would be this. Without a system to “see” what is produced, we don’t know the recycling or re-use potential of waste coming from any location. Once we know this, we can match the different streams of waste coming from a single location to facilities like biogas plants, composting sites, piggeries, and recycling centres that can use that waste. This is how we’ve managed to feed the processing sites in our Network with the best quality of raw materials they can find in the city, reducing labor cost and processing time for them. Very soon, we will be installing our own processing sites and delivering biogas and electricity, produced from waste, to select customers. More on this Waste-to-Resource Grid soon!

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