The discarding of waste is a problem not just for India, but for the entire world. However, in India, the rapidly increasing population is one of the factors responsible for generating huge amounts of waste. The migration of people from rural to urban areas for livelihood, education, and health facilities also results in the accumulation of large amounts of waste in urban areas compared to rural areas.
A culture of ‘use and throw ‘ is widely seen among people.
Every year, urban India produces 62 million tons of waste, of which less than 70% is collected, and only around 20% processed.
About 50 % of waste is dumped in landfills and open areas, according to the Forest and Climate Change wing of the Union Ministry of Environment (MoEF&CC). These open dump areas are mostly found in the outskirts of the cities and are also known to be the home of socially and economically marginalized. As these lands are abandoned, therefore living in these areas doesn’t hamper others. Due to unplanned dumps, the people who live nearby these places are exposed to many health issues like respiratory diseases, skin diseases and are also at higher risk of malaria, dengue, and typhoid.
In recent years there are many countries, communities, and villages that have set an example for waste management through different strategies. In general, the methods start with the sorting of dry waste and wet waste. Wet waste is biodegradable waste which includes cooked and uncooked food, vegetable peel, flower waste, etc. whereas dry waste is non-bio-degradable waste. Other forms of waste include iron, tin, paper, plastic, old clothes, glass, etc. Again, these dry wastes can also be sorted in subcategories.
Many countries are trying to come up with innovative solutions. At the same time, it is challenging as it also involves people’s behavior and participation. The success of waste management’s best practice is to a great extent depends on people’s behavior. It is very true that we cannot simply change someone’s behavior yet we can always help them to change, by raising their awareness about the consequences of extensive littering and pointing out to great examples which prove that alternatives are possible.
In Sweden, less than 1% of the waste goes to landfills. The effective policy and availability of bins and cans recycling machines in public areas are one of the plus points. Japan has its zero-waste village in Kamikatsu. Kamikatsu Zero Waste Academy is a collection center where the waste is segregated in 45 categories by the residents. All the waste is being cleaned before they bring it to the center. As they believe in the sustainability model, they reduce, reuse, and recycle too.
An amusement park in Uganda is entirely built by waste. This park is for the children living in the slums. The artist collected the scrap from the villagers.
Vital waste is a first-ever waste management and recycling company in Kolkata. Vital waste buys throw-away from housing society, school, and corporate organizations and sells them to the different recycling units. The collected waste includes paper, cardboard, plastic, E-waste, and metal.
Among the Northeastern states of India, Sikkim produces the least amount of waste at 32,485 MTPA and Assam produces the highest with 413,910 MTPA, as of 2018. Sikkim has also ranked highest among the states to process the generated waste by up to 66%.
The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a public interest research and advocacy organization based in New Delhi, has released a book “Not in My Backyard” on waste management in Indian cities. Two cities from the North-East region, Aizawl and Gangtok, received awards for their model of waste management practices. These cities have shown a way to tackle uncontrolled waste production through collection, segregation, and processing.
In another example, Aizawl Municipal Council has constructed a Solid Waste Resource Management Centre in the city. The center comprises infrastructure of the building, treatment, composting, and disposal of waste.
Along with the construction of Solid Waste Resource Management centers, they also run a pilot project in five localities, on the segregation of wet and dry waste at the household level. The infrastructure for solid waste segregation has been completed and former rag-pickers are being trained for systematic segregation of the waste.
In Sikkim, the state government has enacted a regulation on Solid Waste Management Rules 2016 (PDF here) of the central government and given full responsibilities to municipal authorities for implementing these rules and developing infrastructure for collection, storage, segregation, transportation, processing and disposal of solid waste.
Initially, the residents did not agree to separate the waste into dry and wet. So, the management committee has started to collaborate with local bodies, NGOs, Self Help Groups, and schools. Awareness campaigns by these stakeholders eventually convinced residents to separate wet and dry waste. They have already started collecting their plastic, paper, glass, and metal to sell to recycling units. Only kitchen waste is handed over to the Gangtok Municipal Corporation for the landfills.
In recent years the awareness of waste management is growing. One astonishing and ambitious example which is going one step further is the Zero Waste Philosophy.
Many individuals, organizations, communities, institutions, and universities have started practicing it. Zero waste refers to sending less waste in landfills and open dumping areas by preventing waste in the first place as opposed to subsequent waste management.
The Zero-Waste Program of the University of Texas, Austin is responsible for the effective reuse and redistribution of campus resources. The program provides recycling bins, proper sorting systems, picks up waste from events, creates composting pits for wet waste, and recyclable items go for recycling.
The Vivekanand Education Society of Mumbai took an initiative to create a Zero Waste campus. None of the generated waste is dumped in the landfill area. The institute makes compost out of wet waste and later turns it into manure. Electricity is generated by solar energy. Dirty water is being purified and the remaining dry waste goes to NGO Stree Mukti Sanghatana for recycling.
Technologies are also playing a very important role in the reduction and recycling of waste. It involves collecting recyclable materials and manufacturing or reprocessing them into new products. With the advancement of technologies, there are many sorting machines that make it easier and faster to separate waste.
India needs lots of strategies for best practices of waste management. Adapting the success stories discussed here is one of the ways to look forward. However, it demands a high level of involvement and ownership of individuals, communities, institutions, organizations, and governments, to have a Clean India.
The involvement and ownership come when we are aware of it. Therefore, the initial step is to raise awareness campaigns in schools, colleges, communities, and public areas. Measures should be taken to create a sense of equal responsibility for waste management among men and women, as it is still considered as the responsibility of women in our society. Imparting knowledge to children is crucial since they are the future.
Despite existing rules and regulations from the government, the municipalities should also plan for relevant strategies according to the places, as every region has its own peculiarities. The strategies involve infrastructure for waste management center, proper training, waste segregation systems for the waste collectors, effective monitoring, and frequent follow up. Providing different categories of dustbins in public and crowded places is also necessary. Nothing is wasted until we cannot use it anymore.
Today, we can see many innovative ideas popping out in waste management such as recycling waste into usable products, generating energy from waste, and turning kitchen waste into manure.
Hence, on World Environment Day, 2020, the most important thing to remember is that all of us are equally responsible to safeguard the environment by contributing towards effective waste management in our country.
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