Minimizing and managing waste is important not only because waste pollutes the environment as whole but also because it has huge implications on one’s health. It is therefore imperative that waste is rightly managed.
In the recent times, organizations and other social enterprises are coming up to spread awareness about managing waste. While this is a good step towards helping sustain the environment, what is more important is to cut down on the waste generated to begin with.
An old saying goes, “Prevention is better than cure”. Likewise, I believe that our focus now should be more on ensuring that the waste generated is as minimal as possible. And this can be achieved if and only if each person takes responsibility for their actions. The sense of belongingness to planet earth must be instilled in every individual so that people will begin to think twice before buying/using something that is harmful to the environment.
Before each of us purchase something, we need to ask ourselves, “Am I going to be contributing to the harmful, toxic waste?” If the answer is yes, one needs to think about whether they really need the product or not. This sheer questioning and awareness can do miracles in terms of cleaning up the environment. When the waste that we generate reduces, time, money, energy and other resources that we put into managing will reduce. These saved resources can be channelled in other directions and for other purposes.
The next issue that needs to be dealt with is the management of the already existing waste. According to the United Nations report, we dump 2.12 million tons of waste every year. If you are having trouble imagining this number, if all of this waste is put on trucks, they could go around the world 24 times. One main reason for this is the fact that 99% of the products that we purchase are thrown away within 6 months.
To make matters worse, not all the waste that is generated can be recycled. A majority of people are not even aware of the journey of their products after they throw them in the bin. Here is a list of items that can and that cannot be recycled.
If recycling is not a solution for all the waste that is generated, then what is?
There is a wide spread misconception that using incinerators to burn waste results in the release of harmful gages, thus causing pollution. However, this is not ALWAYS the case. It depends on the nature of waste combusted and the design of the incinerator as well. Moreover, the ashes generated from burning the waste can often be used to facilitate hydroponic solutions.
Therefore incineration of waste can be done as long as it does not negatively affect the environment. It is however important that this process is carried out in the outskirts of a city where people are not living.
Organizations trying to create change:
SAAHAS is a Non Governmental Organization working towards effectively managing waste in such a way that it becomes a resource that can be used for numerous productive purposes. Their main focus is on sustainable waste management, bringing about sensitization and behavioral change, consultancy and research to come up with new and innovative techniques of waste management and building reverse logistics networks.
They conduct frequent awareness programs where volunteers go from one household to another to spread the word about waste management.
In fact, I was a part of the E-Waste campaign (bE-Responsible) that they organized (along with Ensyde) to spread awareness about the disposal of E-Waste.
One take away from this is that most people are not aware of the harmful effects of electronic waste and therefore they don’t dispose it off in the right manner. Therefore, it is important that more awareness is created and that drop boxes are installed in public places for people to come and drop their E-Waste. Once the waste is collected, formal recycling and disposal can be done.
Another initiative they have taken up is the Tetra Pak Carbon recycling. Tetra Paks are used by many people and this is a major source of waste. Therefore, firstly, people must be dissuaded from using them and secondly, even if they are used, they should be collected separately and recycled in the right manner.
SAAHAS has ensures that the used Tetra Paks reach TPC recyclers who have the means and money to recycle these cartons in an environmentally sustainable way instead of them ending up in a garbage dump.
Wasteless is another social organization which is known for its activity based curriculum on waste titled ‘Garbology 101’. It is a very handy educational tool kit that lists out 101 activities related to waste management, waste disposal and the like. This is a very innovative initiative because these kinds of activities appeal to children, making it easier to mould them at a young age.
Way ahead:
Spreading awareness
The need to spread awareness about waste disposal, management etc. cannot be emphasized enough because only when you know can you do something about it. Therefore large scale awareness events in spaces where huge crowds are present; in a sports meet or a conference or in other large gatherings must be held. These events and sessions should be made interactive so as to get everyone’s attention. Moreover, something concrete can come out of public discussions of this sort.
Waste segregation at source
Waste segregation at source is an extremely important step in the process of waste management because only segregated waste can be used for recycling. The broad categorization of waste is dry waste and wet waste and bins for each of these must be installed in as many public and private places as possible. Moreover, people are not aware of the distinction between dry and wet waste. It would hence be helpful if a poster with an exhaustive list of items under each category can be provided right where the bins are installed.
Unless each one of us makes substantial and sustainable changes to our existing lifestyles and begin to make the right choices, the future looks very gloom.