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Trash course from a Chemistry professor in Mohali

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Samrat Ghosh of  Mohali has built a unique dustbin under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan that makes them easier to clean and keeps the animals away.

Bengaluru: Tucked away inside the campus of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER-Mohali) are the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan prototype dustbins that combine the use of discarded materials and the very Indian concept of jugaad and resilience.

Capable of being installed in public places, the bins have been designed to address problems that affect today’s trash cans, including stray animals rummaging through them, and the difficulty of cleaning them.

The bin has been designed and built by a chemistry professor on campus, Samrat Ghosh.

Designed to succeed

Ghosh’s bin is a tall, green structure mounted on four frames, and has been built with discarded shelves from IISER’s library and glass shards leftover from construction sites.

He says it more conducive to sanitation workers who manually clean the bins.

Normal trash cans have only one opening, over which a plastic bag is fixed. Once the trash gets heavy, the bags tear when workers attempt to pull them out, soiling the bin.

Ghosh’s design enables a cleaner process by using a ‘sand-clock’ mechanism to regulate trash flow. A regular trash bag, now cut open at the bottom, is placed on the bin normally. There is a cinched middle enabled by a knot. A receptacle is placed at the bottom to collect the trash that falls through this sand-clock like structure. The centre knot can be tightened or loosened depending on how much trash is expected to fall in.

This whole mechanism is enclosed in a rectangular frame with a door, which prevents access to trash completely.

“This solves the problem of hungry stray dogs that rummage through trash looking for food, scattering it all over the roads,” says Ghosh.

The structure is also resilient enough to withstand winds and rains, with the ability to thrust its legs into the ground to stabilise it.

Trash cans on the streets today also face an additional trouble of being difficult to clean: Dirt sticks to the insides, and large bins have to be washed manually with water that can only be poured in and held. Ghosh’s bin allows for the top garbage bag — even if of a low quality — to stay in place, thus requiring only its cleaning and not that of the bin directly.

One bag, Ghosh estimates, can be reused multiple times and the whole structure can just be hosed, making for easy and regular cleaning. This prevents stench and accompanying flies and insects that can transmit diseases.

“There are lots of problems with today’s designs,” explained Ghosh to ThePrint. “I have attempted to fix a few of them with this novel design.”

At the prototype stage

Still in its prototype stage, this trash can is currently in use only in IISER Mohali campus, with several improvements in its design underway.

The trash can is also quite economical. “It cost me all of Rs 500 to make this as I just needed to buy tools from Amazon. All the raw material was waste discarded from construction sites and our own library’s metal frames,” says the chemistry professor.

The bins also come with wheels and can be dismantled and packed into a thin box like the ones that transport our LCD television screens. Can they be used in our homes? Yes, says Ghosh.

“I was instructed to build this by our founder director N. Sathyamurthy, who was concerned about the trashcans in use today and is familiar with the work I do,” Ghosh says.

Many innovations

When his mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007, Ghosh moved back to India, quitting a lucrative job developing innovative batteries in Canada. To sustain himself, he eyed a new, promising institute that was just being set up. He joined the IISER-Mohali chemistry department and has been there ever since.

Armed with his undergraduate and post graduate degrees, and two post docs, all in chemistry, Ghosh has dedicated his entire time to making products on the side that would benefit the common public.

Ghosh is an extremely well-known figure in very niche circles. In the past, he has built a safety lamp that allows for easy refills, a needle-less button attacher for fabrics, pipettes and burettes for the differently-abled, and more.

He was recently in the news for developing eco-friendly firecrackers that burst with light and sound but produce no smoke. It was yet another invention under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. His smoke-free firecrackers received a lot of media attention after Environmental Minister Harshvardhan tweeted multiple times in favour of a pollution-free Diwali.

“For everything I create, I always try to answer two questions: can it be constructed from cheap material or items discarded as waste, and will it impact societal behaviour. I want my products to do both,” Ghosh says.

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