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Written and Contributed by

Studio Matter
Goa, India



The project reuses and upcycles a retired public vehicle thus serving multiple ideas through a singular design process: 1. Upcycling and giving the buses a second-life; 2. Enabling the waste workers and citizens to segregate on-site, and 3. Creating a unique prototype that is extremely affordable to make.

What is the project about?

Goa plays a host to many national and international events. Many of these events occupy temporary pop-up venues where managing waste is a challenge. Moreover, it is very difficult for the authorities to enforce on-site segregation in event venues and small, remote settlements that do not have a facility to locally segregate waste. On the other side, the state sends may passenger buses to the dump each year, owing to the wear and tear as well as upgrade in infrastructure. While the bodies of these discarded buses are in unusable condition, the chassis and the engine are generally in good shape. Our project involved prototyping and upcycling a retired bus to refurbish the vehicle for local segregation of waste at event venues. By creating pop-out containers, the bus enables on-site segregation and the additional facilities enable workers to store, separate and remove waste. The design also adds a retractable ramp for the trolley to move in and out of the vehicle.

The Goa Waste Management Corporation (GWMC) is tasked with collection, segregation and management of waste across the Indian state of Goa. One of their key challenges is to effectively collect and segregate waste on-site for the many festivals and events organised in the tourist belt and urban centres. Moreover, remote villages in the hinterland that do not have material recovery facilities also face challenges of segregation and collection.

All public transport buses are ‘retired’ after running for a certain fixed number of miles. While the body of a typical bus endures much wear and tear, the chassis is designed for a significant live load and the engine is mostly in good shape post-retirement owing to regular servicing and extensive use.

The aged public busses are either auctioned off at scrap-value or they slowly decay in the bus yards.

The Waste-Wagon project envisioned a redesign of the body of reclaimed busses through a process of recovering and up-cycling these unique vehicles thus rendering them a second-life as waste- recovery vehicles that can be easily parked on road-side sites and event-venues and aid on-site segregation and management of waste.

The new design involves openable and operable segregation bins, a mechanical ramp that helps workers to move trollies, tables for managing waste inside the bus, a multimedia TV screen for an interactive public display and a unique visual identity for the new purpose! The project envisions fifty vehicles to be upcycled over three years as Waste-Wagons!

Project Funded by

Goa Waste Management Corporation (GWMC)

Stakeholders Involved

Primarily, the project was conceived by Goa Waste Management Corporation and Matter through a process of a few discussions with stakeholders that included individuals working with the issue of waste management in Goa. Further, it was also decided to survey some of the more remote/secluded villages and waste-collection spots in Goa for better data collection and understanding of the issue of segregation. The busses are intended to be operated by GWMC but there is also a hope that some village panchayats may opt for this mode of waste management if they are unable to immediately identify a site for a permanent facility.

What is the impact?

The project reuses and upcycles a retired public vehicle thus serving multiple ideas through a singular design process: 1. Upcycling and giving the buses a second-life; 2. Enabling the waste workers and citizens to segregate on-site, and 3. Creating a unique prototype that is extremely affordable to make.

Presently, the vehicles are utilised by institutions (for example school annual days), festival organisers, village committees and at sites of religious/cultural congregations. We anticipate that when the fleet of 50 vehicles is complete, it will also add much excitement and visual interest to the idea of segregation and waste management!

The project capitalises on the appeal for recycling/upcycling waste creating a familiar icon to manage waste. By providing second life to a retired vehicle, the design not only presents a sustainable alternative but also challenges the conventions of a single-use, single-life production idea.

By utilising simple details and a design-prototype-scale-deploy approach, the project ensures that any fabrication workshop can undertake the assignment of re-modelling the Waste-Wagon in less than 10% of the cost of a new vehicle! The design approach has the potential to be a model for cities to re-assign ageing vehicles in service of waste-management.

In the past decade, the world has witnessed the dark consequences of our wasteful and indulgent contemporary lives. In a developing nation like India, waste is an omnipresent by-product of progress. However, people of all ages and economic backgrounds are becoming increasingly aware of the value in ideas of using less and re-use.

The project attempts not only to solicit an emotional response but by walking the talk, it enables the waste-managers to convey the benefits of up-cycling without being loud or pushy. By using a familiar form for a new function, the Waste-Wagon excites curiosity in a quirky way.

Images by Studio Matter | © all rights reserved

Technical Drawings:
Drawings by Studio Matter | © all rights reserved

Links to read more:

A link to the project.

About Studio Matter:

MATTER is an architecture, design and publishing studio based out of Goa. Their work aims to celebrate the diversity and richness of ideas and practices that are quintessentially Indian and relate to challenges and opportunities that are presented by our landscape. MATTER offers architecture and design consultancy to private clients, civic organisations, government bodies and institutions. MATTER actively invests in applied research in the domains of public interest and relevance.