Report on a Recycling Initiative at Sabari Malai during Mandalam/Jyothi 2009-10
Implementation of WOW (Wealth Out of Waste) –
National Recycling Project initiated by Ramky and ITC
at Sabarimalai during Mandalam and Jyothi Seasons
Implementation of WOW (Wealth Out of Waste) at Sabarimalai
Through letter from Office of the Dewaswom Commissioner, Thiruvananthapuram with Ref:
1230/09/Sab dated 01/12/09, Ramky Reclamation & Recycling Ltd (RRRL) was granted
permission by the Travancore Dewaswom Board (TDB) to implement the activities of WOW as
mentioned in the company's letter dated 27/11/09 with Sub: Implementation of WOW – National
Recycling Project initiated by Ramky and ITC at Sabarimalai during Mandalam and Jyothi
RRRL assigned Ramesh Satyam, an experienced professional in hazard mitigation, disaster and
waste management to implement WOW at Sabarimalai. During his work last year as a Manager
with ITC Ltd (PSPD) of WOW (Wealth Out of Waste) initiative, Ramesh had visited Sabarimalai on
27/01/2009 for assessment of scenario concerning wastes generated, disposal methods in vogue and
the potential for recycling. Ramesh arrived at Sabarimalai on 07/12/2009 to start mobilisation work
for implementation of WOW in consultation with the Executive Engineer and the Executive Officer,
Overview of the situation regarding generation and management of wastes at Sabarimalai
With the growth in number of pilgrims visiting Sabarimalai each year and the changed consumptive
patterns over the years, large volumes of recyclable paper, plastic and metal wastes such as empty
water, soda and soft drink bottles and cans, packaging material of food products, used paper tickets
are generated. At present, very little of this recyclable wastes are taken up for recycling. Most of it
is being disposed along with biodegradable wastes such as remnant food, fruit and vegetable peels,
tree felling and leaves and can be found as litter in habitations, forests and rivers, polluting the
environment and contaminating water resources.
Waste lying as litter in open areas are collected and heaped through sweeping by sanitation workers
and maintenance staff and burnt for waste reduction and disposal. Some of the wastes generated
goes downhill along the hillslopes and into the forest causing adverse impact on the environment in
the pristine beauty of nature at Sabarimalai as it is a difficult task to reach such wastes for their
collection and removal. In cases where there are bins but no arrangement for onward transport of
waste collected in such bins when they get filled, the waste is emptied near the bin and set on fire.
Wherever there are bins, wastes accumulated in such bins, through deposit by sanitation workers,
maintenance staff with businesses, canteens, pilgrim centres, guest houses and pilgrims, are
emptied into a tractor trolley or auto for onward transportation to dumping ground and incinerator
area. Most wastes at present are set on fire either in the open at the dumping ground or in the
incinerator and only a very small part of the potential of resource recovery from wastes generated
for recycling is realized.
Bins of different types have been set up at many places for depositing wastes. Although there has
been some attempt to code for depositing recyclable wastes such as plastic seperately, all types of
unsegregated wastes land up in the same bin. Moreover, there is no system for collection of
recyclable wastes separately and all wastes together are loaded from bins to trolley of tractor or auto
for onward transportation to dumping ground and incinerator area. At places where tractor with
trolley or auto cannot reach to collect the wastes, the wastes are usually heaped and set on fire eg:
along the pathway from Sabari Peedom to Pamba via Appachimedu and Neelimalai.
Large scale burning of waste for their reduction and disposal with diesel in the open is carried out at
times when there is little or no pilgrim traffic such as on the days the temple is closed between the
Mandalam and Jyothi seasons and before the sanitation workers from the Sabarimala Sanitation
Society and workers in the incinerator area leave at the end of Jyothi season.
Recycling at Sabari Malai
For recovery of material from waste for recycling and reuse at Sabarimalai, the work is auctioned
through tenders to contractors for removal and disposal of aluminium foils, sacks and plastic rose
water bottles from the dumping ground and incinerator area at Sannidhanam and cloth from Pamba
River. As wastes are not segregated at source, recyclable wastes are not kept aside seperately to be
collected for recycling at source and whatever material recovered for recycling and reuse is at the
Among the recyclable wastes, priority is given to the collection of aluminium foil used for packing
food from the dumping ground for recycling over other wastes as this fetches a higher price per
kilogram on disposal for recycling.
Recyclable plastic and paper is burnt along with other wastes as the costs for their separation, lot
formation, compressing, packing for safe storage, transport downhill by tractors and head loads and
carriage using hill slope for rolling bags down wherever possible, would exceed the price
recoverable from their disposal making their recovery for recycling though environmentally
desirable, economically unattractive.
Recyclable material that are disposed through burning and landfill include corrugated boxes used
for packing material, plastic covers and wrappers of food and other products, damaged and empty
tins of aravana payasam, used disposable coffee and tea cups and food plates, multilayered
packaging waste used for packing fruit juices, empty water, soda and soft drink bottles and empty
plastic rose water bottles.
The transport of packed recyclable material downhill with tractors and manually through carry and
headloads from Sannidhanam to Pamba for recycling is difficult to be undertaken when there is
pilgrim traffic on the pathway and will have to be carried out only when the temple is closed and
there is no pilgrim traffic on the pathway.
Although the revenue generated from sale of recyclables alone may not be able to fund the cost of
collection, storage and transport of recyclable wastes downhill for recycling, the difference would
be more than offset from benefits such as reduction in waste transported for dumping and burning
and associated costs. Therefore a comprehensive strategy on dealing with all types of recyclable
wastes generated needs to be evolved.
About WOW (Wealth Out of Waste)
“WOW” is a recycling initiative of Ramky and ITC that is being implemented in many cities and
towns in the States of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala such as Hyderabad,
Chennai, Bangalore, Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Tirupati, Coimbatore and Cochin.
“WOW” promotes segregation of waste at source for better recovery of recyclables for recycling and
reduction of waste that goes for incineration and landfill. “WOW” encourages conversion of waste
into resource as it is not possible to continue exploiting nature in the way it was done in the past to
produce paper, plastic and metal. Recycling and use of recycled products brings down our
dependence on nature for resources and helps in environmental protection.
After “Reduce” which calls for concerted efforts to avoid generation of wastes as much as possible,
the next important priority in the hierarchy of waste management options is “Recycle” and “Reuse”.
Only after trying out all options beginning with, Reduce, Recycle and Reuse, composting of organic
biodegradable wastes, biomass to energy and waste to energy (conversion of heat from incineration
of waste into energy) should landfill of the residual waste be considered. Sustained efforts towards
Reduce, Recycle and Reuse can bring down the emission of green house gases through burning of
waste and is a measure to combat global warming and climate change.
Implementation of WOW (Wealth Out of Waste) – National Recycling Project initiated by
Ramky and ITC at Sabarimalai during Mandalam and Jyothi Seasons
The representative from RamkyITC for implementation of WOW, Ramesh Satyam started the
consultation process for drawing out an Action Plan on his arrival at Sabarimala on 07/12/2009 and
had meetings and discussions in this regard with P.V. Nalinakshan Nair, Dewaswom Commissioner,
V.S. Jayakumar, Executive Officer, Sabarimala, P.S. Jolly Ullas, Executive Engineer, K.N.
Narayanan, Executive Engineer, Suresh Babu, Asst. Engineer, Ranjith, Asst. Engineer, Manoj
Kumar K, Environmental Engineer, Sunil, Engineer, Maheshan, Retd. RDO, Sabarimala Sanitation
Society and Mahendra, leader of group of 40 from Tamil Nadu that does maintenance of drainage
lines, small masonry works etc and has 12 persons employed exclusively for picking and clearing
plastic bottles lying around as litter.
Murugesan, Sr. Manager, ITC Ltd, Coimbatore, Selvan, Madurai, Vijayakumar, Coimbatore and
Rajaiah, Hyderabad visited, stayed and worked for differing periods to assist Ramesh with
implementation of WOW at Sabari Malai during Mandalam and Jyothi seasons (first phase).
Sivadasan, Quilon supported by Rajaiah, Hyderabad and Gopalakrishnan, Dindigul organised for
the removal and transportation downhill of recyclable wastes collected, bagged and stored in lots
during season for disposal to recycler exPamba (second phase).
For the work of collection, crushing, packing, carrying and loading of recyclable wastes, labour for
both phases was sourced from Palakkad through Obak Human Resource Outsourcing Services Pvt.
As it was already midway through the Mandalam season at the time WOW implementation was
initiated, considerable quantities of recyclable plastic bottles had already accumulated at various
locations. The labour working with different sanitation groups expressed their support and
cooperation to WOW initiative and said that they would be able to assist to an extent with separation
and heaping of plastic bottles but that labour of our own will have to be deployed for their
collection, manual crushing and packing in bags for storage in lots till they are removed for onward
transport to recycler. Therefore it was decided to bring in labour to exclusively work for collection,
manual crushing and packing of plastic bottles in bags at various locations.
Beginning 19/12/2009, labour from Palakkad was deployed for collection, crushing and packing of
empty water and soft drink bottles in bags and sacks. Through an effort of 450 work days by 27
persons in a month's duration, 8 tons of plastic bottles and 4 Tons of paper tickets were segregated
from other wastes, packed in bags and kept in lots in about 25 locations in Sannidhanam and along
the pathway from Sannidhanam to Pamba.
20 persons were again deployed during the period 20/01/2010 to 10/02/2010 for 250 work days to
bring the material, collected and packed at Sannidhanam and enroute to Pamba during season,
downhill to Pamba and load it in trucks for transport to recycler..
An awareness campaign to promote segregation of recyclable wastes at source in institutions and
businesses such as canteens, pilgrim centers etc., was carried out to prevent such wastes from
littering the environment and to ensure that they are collected separately for recycling. Plastic
bottles were seperated from other wastes at canteens and eating places and at pilgrim centres and
guest houses and manually crushed and packed in bags and kept in lots for removal later for
After the end of Mandalam season, banners of Wealth Out of Waste (WOW) were put up at
Pamba and enroute to Sannidhanam in Malayalam, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Hindi and
English with the messages, “Let's work together to keep Lord Ayyappa's Garden, Sabari
Malai, Clean & Green” and “Do not litter Sabari Malai with plastic bottles, paper etc., put
them only in bins”. as part of awareness campaign for the Jyothi Season seeking cooperation
and support of general public for better management of wastes at Sabari Malai.
As recovery and disposal of items like aluminium foils, sacks and plastic rose water bottles
were auctioned to a contractor, WOW focussed on recovery for collection and disposal for
recycling of the most visible plastic water, soda and soft drink bottles that were just being
heaped and burnt with other wastes or thrown as litter.
On finding heaps of used Aravanai Payasam ticket counterfoils brought by tractor and lying at
dumping ground with other wastes to be taken up for incineration, officials of Dhanalakshmi
Bank were contacted and it was decided to segregate and bag used ticket counterfoils at source
in the branch of the bank and at the ticket counter complex at Sannidhanam and this material
was taken downhill to Pamba after season and transported for recycling.
Although lot of messages discouraging and prohibiting the use of plastics at Sabari Malai are
in circulation over the years, their generation as waste has been increasing making their
removal for recycling an urgent issue to be addressed as otherwise they end up as litter in the
forest or burnt along with other wastes. The component on waste management in the Master
Plan for development of Sabari Malai states that plastics shall be taken for recycling, but
doesn't detail further on how it will be accomplished.
The Forest Department launched “Sabarijalam” as its brand of packaged drinking water in
bottles for sale through its outlets. To prevent litter and encourage recycling, it offered Re. 1
for return of empty water bottle. Even with this incentive, with the exception of few empty
bottles returned and collected at vending point most empty bottles ended up as litter, in waste
bins with other wastes and burnt in the dumping ground with empty plastic bottles of other
Of the 30 tons of waste that is daily collected through tractor and auto and disposed by
burning at incinerator area during season at Sabari Malai, 10% are plastic bottles and they are
light and occupy lot of space. Plastic bottles from sweepings are deposited alongwith other
wastes in bins. Waste from the bins are emptied into a vehicle and transported to incinerator
Plenty of plastic bottles are available for recovery at incinerator area and dumping ground all
through the season and although plastic bottles were recovered from other wastes and packed
over here, preference was given to collection and packing of plastic bottles at source such as
canteens, guest houses, pilgrim centres and along the pathway in lots for removal after season
While 1/5th of the 12 MT of recyclable wastes collected for recycling were recovered from the
dumping ground (site for eventual disposal through burning or landfill), 4/ 5th were recovered
Recovery from source was done from over 25 premises at Sannidhanam and enroute to
Pamba, through sensitization of persons concerned with management of wastes in canteens,
pilgrim centres etc., and arranging to seperate recyclables from other wastes, their bagging
and storage in lots in or near the premises and their eventual removal for recycling purposes.
The waste recovered for recycling from source would otherwise have been transported using
tractor to the dumping ground for burning or thrown as litter in the forest.
The total dry recyclables recovered from waste and disposed for recycling through WOW
implementation at Sabari Malai during Mandalam and Jyothi Seasons 200910 is as follows:
Plastics (water, soda and soft drink bottles about 5 lakh numbers crushed manually, bagged
and kept in lots formed in about 25 locations at Sannidhanam and along the pathway from
Sannidhanam to Pamba). Weight 7.9 MT
Paper (Aravanai Payasam Ticket Counterfoils that were bagged at source at branch of
Dhanalakshmi Bank and at the tickets counter area at Sannidhanam) Weight 4.1 MT
Total recyclables recovered and disposed for recycling from wastes generated during
Mandalam and Jyothi Seasons 200910 at Sabari Malai through WOW implementation was 12
MT (7.9 MT + 4.1 MT). These would otherwise have been disposed off through burning.
The total expenses (labour, management, food, accomodation, telephones, travel, bags,
banners etc.,) incurred on WOW Implementation was about Rs. 4 Lacs and about Rs. 1 Lac
revenue was generated from disposal of 12 tons of recyclable plastic and paper collected
resulting in a net expense of about Rs. 3 Lacs.
WOW implementation at Sabari Malai received considerable attention from the media and
was reported about in leading Malayalam Newspapers and a TV Channel and media in other
languages. Officials of the Dewaswom and other Departments of the Govt. of Kerala such as
the Forest Department, Sanitation Staff working at Sabari Malai, Staff at Canteens, Pilgrim
Centres, Guest Houses and general public at large were sensitized through an awareness
campaign through word of mouth and banners exhorting them to join and support the work
effort in keeping Sabari Malai Clean & Green.
WOW implementation demonstrated that it is possible to organise separation of recyclables from
other wastes at source and reduce the waste that has to be taken to the dumping yard and for
incineration. The recyclables bagged and stored in lots at source were removed and taken downhill
after season for transport to recycler.
Separation of recyclables wastes at source would improve their recovery for recycling and prevent
them from being carried along with other wastes for final disposal. From sweepings, recyclables
should be separated from other rubbish and stored separately and safely till they can be removed and
taken for recycling.
Through awareness education and facilitation, larger volumes of recyclables can be recovered in a
cleaner and easier manner from source and these recyclables can be stored safely till the time they
can be removed and taken for recycling. Removal of recyclable wastes at source would reduce the
wastes that has to be transported for dumping and incineration while at the same time reduces the
recyclable waste available for recovery at the incinerator area.
At present, since there is no segregation of wastes at source and whatever recovery for recycling is
taking place of certain items at the dumping yard, there is no infrastructure and resources in place to
support segregation of recyclable wastes at source and their separate collection, processing, storage
and transport for recycling. For recycling to work effectively, awareness education should be
supported through facilitation.
Appropriate bins have to provided for wherever required for primary collection and storage of
recyclables. Bins for primary storage have to be emptied as and when they get filled and persons
with transport vehicles have to be deployed to collect recyclables from such bins and take them to a
secondary storage area where they can be sorted, compressed, packed and stored in lots till they are
transported for recycling.
It should be made mandatory for all canteens, eating places, guest houses, pilgrim centres,
businesses, offices etc., to segregate paper, plastic and metal recyclables wastes from other wastes at
source and keep them at a place within or near their premises to facilitate collection for recycling
purposes and ensure that such recyclable wastes are not disposed with other wastes.
Offer to Travancore Dewaswom Board from Ramky
Ramky, the largest waste management company in the private sector in India that alongwith ITC
implemented WOW at Sabari Malai is keen on sustaining work with the Travancore Dewaswom
Board for bettering the situation related to management of wastes at Sabari Malai and would be
interested to undertake the responsibility of management and environmentally safe disposal of
wastes generated at Sabari Malai on a turnkey basis.
Ramky, with its expertise in waste management, will be able to suggest and implement measures
that will build capacity and improve ability to collect and dispose the different wastes generated at
Sabari Malai in an environmentally safe manner. As a follow up on Implementation of WOW
during Mandalam and Jyothi Seasons, the Travancore Dewaswom Board and Ramky should
deliberate on the nature of association they should enter into and the basis on which an appropriate
mechanism can be established that will be able to effectively handle the wastes generated so as to
minimize their impact on the environment.