What Can YOU Do About Malba?

Malba, or C&D Waste, is omnipresent in the life of an urban resident of India. Whether you are the waste generator, or the ordinary citizen bothered by it, here is what you can do about Malba.

Neha Gupta
Min Read

Dear People of India,

We realised that all our articles so far have been addressing architects and construction professionals, and have been leaving out the most crucial stakeholder – YOU. So with this article we rectify that. You may not realise this, but while you bear the urban and health consequences of poorly managed C&D Waste or Malba, you too are responsible for its generation. Hence, the article is divided into two parts – one, where you as the home renovator are responsible for Malba, and two, where you as an Indian resident find Malba in your surroundings.

In this article, we summarise ways in which you can deal better with this bulky waste stream in both situations.

Malba in Home Renovations

Home renovations are a common household occurrence and must happen as we strive to improve our quality of our life. However, the Malba generated in the process impacts air, water and consequently our own health.

What good is a beautiful home if we don’t have the health to enjoy it?

Figure 1: Home renovations (Source: The Architect’s Diary)

So, here are some tips on how to keep track of your Malba the next time you renovate your home:

#1 Segregate Your Waste

As per the C&D Waste Management Rules (2016), Malba must be segregated into the following categories – Concrete, Soil, Steel/Wood/Plastics, and Brick/Mortar. Till this waste is not disposed of, it is supposed to be kept within the premises. So any Malba on the street makes you liable for fines.

  1. Get your construction workers to segregate waste on-site from the start. Allocate appropriate space on the site and lay out properly labeled bins or gunny bags for easy waste collection and disposal.
  2. Be cautious of leftover paints and scraped off plaster as they might contain toxic elements such as VOCs or lead. Close the containers tightly to prevent vapours from leaking as they might cause irritation in the eyes, headache, dizziness, or nausea. Never pour any paint or paint waste down the drain. Since our sewage (largely untreated) and water connect to the same source – the river – the toxins in the paint eventually end up in our water streams too.
  3. Segregate metals and sell them in the scrap market (your contractor would be a great person to do this). Steel, copper wires, aluminium, are recyclable and have a high resale value. Do the same with doors, windows, and furniture as well.

Figure 2: Separate gunny bags for different categories of Malba during home renovations (© Malba Project)

#2 Know Where The Waste is Disposed

If you are getting a renovation done, you are as per law the waste generator. As the waste generator, it is your duty to ensure that the Malba is disposed of properly. Inquire from your contractor about their waste disposal protocol. We often hear from contractors that – ‘Hum pahaadi pe phenk aayenge’ (we will throw it on the hill) or ‘Jahaan khaali zameen dikhegi wahaan phenk denge’ (we will throw it where we see an empty plot of land). Please know that that’s illegal. Ensure that your Malba is sent to a government-designated collection point or recycling plant. It also serves to educate the labour about best practices.

We are building a Malba Map to help you do this better.

Figure 3: MalbaMap allows you to find your nearest Collection Point designated by the local authorities (© Malba Project)

#3 Choose Materials Wisely

Our material choices determine the longevity of renovation, its cost, and the aesthetic. Some things to keep in mind while picking materials are:

  1. Ditch seasonal trends for timeless aesthetics. The colour palette of the season, the latest tile patterns, the best fabric prints will go out of style by the next season, and you will have to spend yet again on renovation. Instead go for the timeless aesthetic on natural materials – stone (recycled is beautiful too), natural plasters, plants, sunshine – these things will never go out of style.  
  2. You will find that these materials are also durable – and last for decades (in the case of Taj Mahal even centuries).  
  3. Look for breathable materials options such as lime rather than the more conventional cement. There is a reason why historical monuments have lasted as long, yet our homes require a touchup every year. Lime breathes, and thus, there is no issue of water seepage.
  4. Explore sustainable alternatives to conventional materials. Check out Carbon Craft tiles – made from air-captured carbon, second-hand doors and windows, insulation made from agricultural waste, and recycled pavers to name a few things.

Figure 4: Timeless materials and aesthetics can ensure long lasting designs and reduce seasonal trend based wastage (© Ritu Nanda Design )

#4 Work with What you Have

Instead of wiping the slate clean, i.e. demolishing and rebuilding from scratch, explore if you can get creative with the existing elements of your house.  

Perhaps the old kitchen granite slab you were planning to renovate could be reused to accent some window sills? Perhaps your old furniture can be spruced up for that retro vibe?

Hire an architect or an interior designer and give them a brief that you want to preserve as much as possible – professionals love a good challenge.

If you can’t find one, give us a call, and we’ll assist you.

Figure 5: The restored staff quarters at Scindia School use old school chairs, stools, and retain the original structure as well (© Shivani Dogra)

Unclaimed Malba on the Streets

Now that we have covered what you can do as a home renovator, let’s understand how you can deal with the unclaimed piles of Malba that you see all over the city. Are you aware that even construction material lying around for too long can have a detrimental impact on our health?

Figure 6: Unclaimed Malba (© Malba Project)

Not only must we properly dispose of our waste, but we must also ensure that there is no waste in our immediate vicinity. So, if you happen to find Malba laying around your neighbourhood, please make sure to:

  1. Take a picture and upload it on the Green Delhi App or the 311 Apps by the MCD. If your complaint isn’t resolved, take it to Twitter.
  2. Tag the concerned authorities on Twitter. SDMC, EDMC, NDMC, MCD, DPCC – are the authorities responsible for dealing with Malba in Delhi.
  3. Take a picture and send it to Malba Project, or upload it to Instagram and tag us. Make sure you add the approximate location of the Malba. Contribute to the Malba Map so we can identify illegal dumping hotspots in Delhi.
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