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“Can we recycle gum?”


An inquisitive nine year-old posed the question. “What about atomic bombs?” “What about human bodies?” chimed in others. The curiosity was infectious, each question leading to another question. What couldn’t one recycle or, at the least, reuse in creative ways?

These questions arose after a morning of touring the informal waste sector of Bangalore on the Waste Unwasted Maker Camp #1 Waste Safari. A Jaaga B’LORECREATE initiative, Waste Unwasted Maker Camps is a collective addressing Bangalore’s waste challenges through field research, open dialogue, design thinking and making. For Maker Camp #1, Jaaga, in partnership with the Daily Dump and NICHE team engaged with children in the range age of 10–12 years old about Bangalore’s everyday waste issues and how each child’s lifestyle can contribute to the improvement of escalating environmental issues through creative outlets.

The day was split into two parts.

In the morning: Research in the field. A group of seven children took notes, photos and sketches of the different types of waste they saw, the different people they met and the places they went. They went to the dump sites where contractors of the BBMP picked up the waste in trucks which were taken to bigger trucks, sorted by women working long hours, and then finally to the waste market to be broken down further and, eventually, sold.  They learned about the four types of waste (wet, dry, electronic and reject waste) and how each one is treated.

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Throughout the morning, children and the parents that accompanied them had the opportunity to ask the workers questions about their views on waste and what their working days were liked. Despite the not-so-pleasant smells of Bangalore trash and the crowds in the market, the children were engaged and interested in the serious waste management issues that Bangalore, as the christened “garbage city,” deals with.

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The second half of the day: The group dissected what we’d seen through design thinking processes at Daily Dump’s colorful office in Indiranagar. The observations ranged from curiously hilarious to incredibly insightful. “Why are the women who sort trash are paid so much less then the men who sell it but their job seems so much harder?” Yes. Exactly. It was amazing watching them discover these very important points on their own.

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We continued on discussing the material make-up of chip bags, categorised as “reject waste”,  to then make something purposeful out of plastic chip bags based on a self-mapping exercise of each child’s day-to-day schedule. The children identified a useful design for a particular part of their day. Children sketched, prototyped then made with plastic chip bag panels sealed together by a plastic heat sealing machine traditionally seen in local hot chip shops across Bangalore. Their creativity flowed despite the long day.

B’LORECREATE “Waste Unwasted” Maker Camp #1 was an educational, albeit smelly, experience. After a day spent pondering questions like if gum could in fact be recycled, I came away with a bit of faith in the future of waste management in Bangalore. If the kids were this engaged and concerned about their trash, questioning possible solutions this deeply, maybe there is hope for the future of the garbage city to return to it’s rightful state of being as the garden city. We hope the children who attended this camp look at a plastic chip bags differently, their dust bins at home differently, a plastic sealing machine differently and the overall waste and waste management differently. Only time will tell. But hey, maybe the inventor of the recycled atomic gum human was among the crowd on Saturday.
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Waste Unwasted Maker Camps is a collective addressing Bangalore’s waste challenges through field research, open dialogue, design thinking and making. A Jaaga B’LORECREATE initiative