₹ubbish!: a revolutionary game to make waste management fun

Games for change are one of the most revolutionary education tools of our times, allowing entire generations to change their mindset using fun learning activities to absorb the message at hand. Kaasu-Kasa (Money-Waste) or its English equivalent ₹ubbish! is one such game.

Designed by Bangalore-based Fields of View, a policymaking tech research not-for-profit organisation that works with public safety and security in urban systems, in collaboration with mediaLAB Amsterdam, Hasiru Dala and IIIT-B, the board game is for Bangaloreans to learn about the their garbage and its journey by making players examine sustainable ideas within the urban framework to make their city garbage-free.

In 2012, Bangalore adopted a decentralized approach to manage the waste at a local level, where wet or organic waste could be composted and dry recyclable waste could be sent to a Dry Waste Collection Centers (DWCCs). These DWCCs are being set up in every ward and trying to create an economic model around waste management, which legitimises employment of the workers who were previously in the informal sector.

The bilingual game requires a group of 4-6 players, each of whom are DWCC managers and experience what it is to be in the middle of the waste supply chain. The players collect the waste in each round, trade in dry waste and invest in new centres in different wards of the city. The catch is that all uncollected dry waste goes to a landfill, and if the landfill gets full, all players lose. While the focus is self-motivated initially, as the landfill gets fuller, players start taking collective action and really consider the problem at home so as to not end the game.

While preventing the collective loss is the goal of the game, the bigger picture is to understand the importance of knowing where one’s garbage goes by collectively building a sustainable waste management system that works. After all, waste is truly too huge an issue to tackle singlehandedly. With all this in mind, ₹ubbish! is definitely one of the most thought-provoking, creative ways to educate people about ground realities and drive home the need for ownership and responsibility for one’s own environment as a citizen that we’ve seen in a long time.

Sruthi Krishnan, a researcher at Fields of View, explains that during their research, the team found that these DWCCs were not making a profit because most producers of waste (both individual and bulk) did not know about these centers. “Rubbish! was designed for producers of waste to learn about the decentralised system and understand how the tug of war between environment and economics plays out, the role of DWCCs, and how segregation is crucial to the success of the system,” she says. 

To make ₹ubbish! a reality, The collaborators pooled their resources to bridge the existing knowledge gaps and change the perception of waste management. Besides being entertaining in itself, the game is also being used as research to gauge whether or not the idea of a decentralised system of waste management works in the real world. Sruthi notes that as the underlying model in ₹ubbish! is based on real data, players engage with real-life constraints of the DWCC managers, and understand the realities and constraints of what it takes to manage waste. ”₹ubbish has three phases - briefing, game play, and debrief. During the debrief, the players express a deeper understanding of the complex system of waste, the economic and environmental trade-offs, and they themselves speak about how segregation is important to the success of the system,” she elaborates.

Since the product has been ready, Fields of View and Hasiru Dala, another Bangalore-based organisation that focuses on waste disposal, has been conducting game sessions amidst various groups like students, policymakers, and the general public. One can also request a session to be organised on the website

Going forward, Fields of View plans to package ₹ubbish! as compact and portable games to be distributed in the market. “The game framework underlying ₹ubbish! can be easily adopted to other cities, provided we have data. Bangalore was chosen for ₹ubbish! as it moved to a decentralised system of managing waste,” wraps up Sruthi.