I went as a volunteer from the IYCN, with Saahas (a Bangalore based NGO, that deals with waste management and reduction), for the Sunfeast World 10k Run, held in Bangalore, on the 31st of May, 2009. No, we didn’t go to run the race. We went instead, with the common aim of ensuring that the event was a zero-waste event.
The event was highly publicized, with The Times of India being the print media partner and Kingfisher being the ‘good times partner’. Procam was the organizer of the event. The event was held to raise money for some 60 odd NGOs in India. There were 23,000 registered participants, apart from a stifling crowd of onlookers who had come to pass their Sunday afternoon.
While everybody in Bangalore is celebrating the success of the event, allow me to enlighten you on the excuse for a waste disposal system, that the event had.
There were about four hired young boys as cleaners for the entire stadium. I was able to find only about five dustbins, after much searching.
Kingfisher water was flowing through the Kanteerva Stadium- the water, packed in handy little pocket sized bottles, was free and uninhibited. If my mother was at the event, I know she would have stuffed as many bottles as would fit in my pockets, so that she can carry the cute things in her handbag when she goes shopping. There were several people like my mother at the event, hoarding up as many of the Pet bottles as possible. If they weren’t hoarding, they were taking a sip of water or pouring it on themselves to beat the heat… and then tossing the bottles all over the place.
The volunteers from Saahas, IYCN and the MS Ramaiah Institute here, were the only ones responsible for trying to keep the event clean, and having waste recycled. The twenty of us brought about thirty of our own bins. We ensured that waste was segregated and all the Kingfisher water bottles were sent for recycling. Our collection of Pet bottles amounted to around 800 kgs (80,000 bottles). Other waste contributed 400 kgs.
With all its social motivations, a clean Bangalore, was just not on the agenda of the event’s namma Bengaluru plan. I've been told that the situation was even worse last year. We were the last to leave the stadium that day, and if not for us volunteers who cleaned up the place, the organizers of the next event to be held at the stadium, would have probably had to do so.
One may think this is a municipal issue, or an issue of the organizers of the event. One may even argue that we deprived the rag pickers who would definitely have come scavenging for waste, once the stadium had quietened down. Yes, the stadium would have been cleaned up, some how, before the next event. We didn’t need to leave our homes at 5am, to be there by 6am and finally leave the stadium only by 12pm.
But we did it, in the hopes of being able to educate this highly developed Bangalore, on the value of reducing and recycling our waste. I can promise you one thing- climate change will be a priority of the Sunfeast World 10k Run organizers (and Kingfisher, if you want to pick a bone), next year.