SR article

Week 1 - ELCITA

The first week was intense, as it plays a crucial role in the success of our project, but we survived and learned a lot from the dilos, shop-floor meeting and workshop.



Following a successful kick-off we proceeded with the dilo's (day in the life of), which were split into three functions, waste collection, waste sorting and data gathering on the sites. For the waste collection, Enid and I were to ride along with a waste collection truck and note their exact processes in collecting waste. The waste sorting team, Niels and Jair, would become involved with several onsite activities such as the unloading of collected waste and actual sorting, bailing and composting of waste. Floor and Silvia would in the meantime interview the managers and Srikrishna about the systems that are currently in place, and which data is currently gathered and to which extent. 

Waste collection

Enid and I were driven around the city on the first day, accompanied by Girish, who would help us explain the process as well as translate questions we might have for the customers and the workers. It was evident that our presence on the first day may have been slightly disruptive, as foreingers are scarce, and the result was that we slowed the process of permission to enter several premises and possibly caused loaders to be more uncertain in loading waste. On second day, Niels and I got up at 3:45am to follow the 5:00am shift, in order to see the collection process with new eyes but also have a base for comparison between the early and late morning shift.



There are three shifts and three trucks for waste collection, two depart at 05:00am and one that departs at 09:00am. The trucks each cover different routes of approximately 7-11 customers at a time, and are always manned by a consistent team of a driver and two loaders, who communicate in Hindi. The loaders consistently wore firm work shoes and masks, though they did not always place it over their mouth, and their plastic gloves were meager which could easily be penetrated by sharp objects. Collecting waste varies per company, as some require loaders and drivers to obtain a vistors pass, regardless their daily visit, in order to gain access to the garbage, whilst some store garbage outside the building or in cages. After the waste is collected, the bags are weighed on a platform scale and labeled per company prior to loading. As the truck reached its limit, the loader was required to climb upon the mountain of bags and compress it with body weight to make room for more waste and bags were thrown towards to loader as they started to fall out and roll down.

It was intriguing to see how the loaders could immediately sense the different sorts of waste, with the slight of hand, smell or sight. Additionally, the efficiency of the route taken by the driver was beyond expectations as the time taken between companies did not exceed 3 minutes in any occassion. Companies provided widely varying quantities of waste, varying from a single bag to over 30 bags of waste, which called us to question the system of engaging in a daily pick up system for all 65 of the 75 companies WWMNCS serves. Furthermore, the customer-client relation was also called into question when we looked at the way in which the waste was stored for the collectors to pick up, namely in random, inconvenient places and corners. It was nonetheless an enjoyable experience, as we got to visit several companies ranging from small start-ups to HP, who own 6 different facilities within electronic city, and witness the range of waste provided by them, some which produced mostly high value waste (waste that can be sold at a high price after sorting) and some only rejects (waste that is not worth enough to bother separating, such as kitchen waste, which is usually too contaminated to be sold). 

Waste sorting


On the first day Jair and Niels spent all day participating in the different aspects on site, to get a feel of how the current system works and experience how the workers work. This would allow them to take the worker's preferences and customs into consideration in the analysis, prior to making drastic changes. Also of vital importance was obtaining the site layout and understanding of the material streams. They started at the bailer and then moved on to the sorting and then finally the weighing of the sorted waste. The second day was spent accurately keeping track of on site movements and employee working hours. This would allow us to determine the on-site efficiency manually, which we could later corroborate with the data from the data gathering team.


The waste trucks arrive approximately once every two hours, and unload rejects first in a section designated to rejects, which is emptied daily, first thing in the morning. The garbage is then unloaded per company, according to the labels, in different sections designated for sorting, where it will then be sorted by around 2-4 sorters per sorting area. After a company's waste has been separated, it is weighed and registered per stream, to create an accurate invoice for companies, who pay for rejects and earn from high-value waste delivered. The separated waste is then stored in storage areas designated to particular streams, such as brown paper and white paper and 4 different types of plastic and so on, of which 6 streams are passed onto the baler like cardboard and PET bottles. White paper, tine and wet waste are examples of waste streams that are not baled, of which the suitable wet waste is combined with garden waste and is composted on site. During the baling process company streams are neglected and upon selling it is weighed once more.  

Data gathering

Floor and Silvia spent nearly the entire dilo in meetings with Srikrishna and Subha, and were occasionally joined by Mahalingappa, Suresh or Girish for additional information. Data gathering proved to be difficult due to the contrast in systems, in the Netherlands everything is kept tightly recorded digitally and constantly updated. Whilst at this site, it appeared that documentation was kept on a combination of digital spreadsheets and on paper in various notebooks and loose sheets of paper in a folder, in handwriting that was occasionally difficult to decipher. 

On the first day of the dilo Floor and Silvia spent their day asking for the data of the past year from Mahalingappa, as well as an elaborate explanation of the functions of the IGotGarbage application from Srikrishna. On the second day floor and Enid spent huge amounts of time collecting the data from different sources and compiling it to form a baseline for the current company statistics, such as their incoming waste, outgoing waste, sorting efficiency, collecting efficiency and so on. Due to the difference in data collecting, it was difficult to obtain an accurate result of the statistics for the past year, which led to them selecting months for which the most data was available. 

The aim of the dilo for data gathering was originally to evaluate and analyse their method for gathering information and documentation, but instead the time was spent merely collecting as much of the available data as possible and structuring it such that analyses could be made of the current situation. This would allow us to establish the baseline KPI's (key performance indicators) and new KPI goals for the coming workshop. 

Shop-floor meeting


The shop floor meeting opened for drivers and loaders after lunch on Wednesday afternoon, following the dilo. The drivers spoke first and mentioned the problems stated above, such as: it could take up to 30 minutes to enter a single complex due to security reasons and that there are no extra drivers, meaning that if a driver is absent for consecutive days, they would have to cover the shifts with 2 people, which is too much work. Also, garbage is not always disposed of in bags but solely in bins, meaning that they have to bring their own bags and fill it themselves. The loaders mentioned several issues ranging from the way they are treated, to the low quality of the bags which result in broken bags from which garbage constantly falls out and the fact that the companies hold them responsible for cleaning it up. They also mentioned the poor separation, namely the wet and dry waste, making some bags exceptionally gross and heavy in some cases. The heaviness of a bag is a problem in situations where a loader is absent and a single loader is sometimes left to carry bags weighing up to 30 kilos. 


Following the men, the sorters were welcomed into the shop-floor meeting to share their ideas. The women mainly criticised the quality of segregation of the companies, including sanitary waste, which is highly unpleasant to handle. They also had complaints about headaches and dizziness due to the handling of materials that have strong odours coming off them, and that their pay was too low to be able to get around, especially considering that sickness is unpaid and results in a significant drop in income. 

The shop-floor meeting seemed to be new to all of the on-site workers, as both men and women were quiet initially, but as the discussion progressed it appeared that they felt more comfortable speaking their minds. An obvious barrier was language, but fortunately messages were understood by being passed along Suresh, who is able to communicate with sorters and Suresh with Girish and Mahalingappa, who then communicated the issues in English to us. Of course a question would be that things may have been lost in translation and the connotation of particular words would be different in the different languages. Once the drivers, loaders and sorters started talking, it quickly turned into a heft discussion with multiple conversations taking place simultaneously. The final information gained however is useful, though most of the criticism dit not concern the process itself, making it difficult to incorporate into the improvement plan for the pilot. Nonetheless, we will aim improve each of their working conditions to the best of our abilities, but it will require time and a good analysis of the problem origin.


On Thursday we got up early once again to prepare for the presentation and workshop that would take place in the afternoon after lunch. At 13:30 we presented our findings to the local partners, with whom we are collaborating. We shared our observations and areas for possible improvements, which was then followed by us splitting up into two groups, operations and business, to discuss the improvement plan. We did this by looking at each observation point and potential point of improvement and discussing the priority of each point, as well as potential solutions. The discussions turned out to take longer than planned and we did not get to actually plotting our points on a timeline, but we learned a lot from each other when discussing the ideas. By 5 pm we finished the first part of the workshop and decided to continue the next day so everyone could start fresh. 

Following up on the newly gathered information from the workshop, we proceeded to build up on an extensive excel spread sheet created by Silvia, that would allow us to consider each identified point for improvement and prioritise them. In addition, the goal/target was determined for each point of improvement and its accompanying conditions and constraints. 



This week we accomplished an extreme amount of tasks, creating a full improvement plan within a period of 5 days. The days were long, we didn't get to sleep too much or much time to eat or take a break but we managed to complete two dilo's, a shop-floor meeting and a workshop in order to ensure everyone is equally involved by having the equal chance to be heard and provide input. It was a great week, meeting team with whom we will be working the coming months, and integrating into a new culture and lifestyle. The people we have met so far are extremely friendly and welcoming, which of course is a great help for the project, but also a fantastic way for us to adapt and start socialising and get to know the city in our free time. Friday night we went out for a delicious dinner with Srikrishna and Saturday afternoon with the lovely Subha, who prepared a mouthwatering home-cooked Indian lunch. Nevertheless, underneath all the great times, we also came to realise the seriousness of the current situation, and the high contrast in our environment and the environment in which the sorters, loaders, drivers, and millions more alike grow up in. For me personally, it is extra motivation to make the project a success as we could potentially drastically improve their living standards and conditions. The coming weeks will be very busy and vital for the success of the project, a good start is vital in order to gain the trust of each team member and involved person and allow us to make the needed changes. 

At the end of the week we celebrated a very successful beginning of our project. 

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