“I had a dream once, about shipping all the waste stuffed into a rocket and then shunt it to outer-space perhaps into the sun but then my young mind stumbled across the movie Wall-E. I was devastated.”
I have always been conscious of pollution, as more than an abstract distant concept that it always seemed to be to people who were at my age group- who saw me as someone strange for always insisting on taking all the wrappers to the bin or that I always brought lunch boxes instead of buying snacks from the school canteen. The distance between my peers and myself shortened as I aged but there were still instances that made me want to mount my soap box to expound on the importance of limiting our waste or the necessity of proper disposal. Cannot relate? Then let me give you something to contemplate about.
Think of all the products that you use daily, to ease the process of recounting let me give you an idea by taking myself for example On an average day, I make use of toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, edibles, cosmetics, clothes, water, you get the idea. Now this translates into waste in the form of wrappers and casing for the bath and beauty products, similar wrappings and bags made of paper-plastic for food products, discarded cloth, plastic bottles for the water etc. If I attempt to put all of these in a proverbial jar, I get one at the size of a bucket. Imagine this for a month- that’s thirty buckets, and to compute for years? For 7 million people? We might literally drown in the cesspit of waste and have no one but ourselves to blame.
Everyday tons of waste is generated across the globe, many of which can directly be attributed to the way we live. Majority of this waste is in the form of plastic which poses a greater problem due to its inability to be decomposed and its low rate of recyclability. This problem is further exacerbated by the greater usage of plastic inorder to package the products that we use especially when it comes to daily essentials, one can find that supermarkets are full of these shiny plastic covers as manufacturers and distributors prefer them because of their durability, ease of availability and cost. India alone generates nearly 26,000 tonnes of plastic waste every day, making it the 15th biggest plastic polluter globally. The scenario seems rather bleak when one tries to imagine the scale that large- piles of garbage akin to the one depicted in the animated movie “Astroboy” might help you to envision it.
The question of the hour comes what exactly is one’s role in it? Does me being diligent enough in waste disposal satisfy my obligation to keep the earth from clogging up? Does the failure to influence my peers along the way become a responsibility that I have to shoulder?
The answers are not straight forward nor are they particularly easy to talk about but nothing is truly lost when one makes an effort, and if enough people do it, we might as well be able to shed light upon the situation in order to devise an appropriate solution.
To start with, understanding how people look at trash provides us with insight on how to approach the issue. Different parts of the globe have progressed differently according to their awareness on the issue of the waste crisis and a quick web search led me to believe that Central Europe is perhaps the most proactive in their strategies seeing as they lead the Zero-waste movement.
How do you make a difference- to make an impact that counts? Well here are some quick insights.
Social media influencers who went about taking up the zero waste challenge where their goal was to plainly fit years worth of trash into a small jar- like the one you get jam in. Their efforts have generated a lot of attention towards the whole problem of excessive trash to be solely borne on the consumer side aiming on their choices, i.e. better choices make for lesser trash generated. Simply buying only what you need, and making use of them can cut off a lot of waste. Remember that sauce you brought sitting at the back of your fridge or the dress that you couldn’t do without? Another thing that can be done is to make sure that when you are through with something, you pass it along to people who can continue to use it. Thrift shops and retailers who donate their excess food are examples of waste minimization, might as well follow their lead as they solve two problems in one fell swoop- wastage and resource distribution.
The rising consumer preference to buy more eco-friendly products has made retailers and suppliers change the way they distribute products. To cite an example, a shopping chain in England has managed to change the way they operate eliminating their use of plastic in under 10 weeks and even managed to bolster their sales despite the change in prices or the apparent lack of a typical package that the consumers are used to. Opting for stores such as this could bring more people to the movement and help in catalyzing other retailers to adopt similar policies.
The chink that remains in achieving a global shift towards a planet less burdened is directed to making sustainability affordable. Many studies have shown that buying bulk directly from the distributors can drastically reduce the price that you pay, and this move reduces the amount of packaging that is used. To assist with food waste prevention strategies, France and other European countries have introduced “no waste” grocery stores where food is stored in bulk and customers are encouraged to shop for only the amount they need using containers from home and this is something that is easily adaptable.
Talking about easily adaptable habits brings me to the use of home and community spaces. They can be made use of by keeping greens that help to dispose of your food and other degradable waste while giving you fresh products or just helping you feel relaxed by improving the aesthetics while also giving you a breath of fresh air, literally.
To follow all of this might be hard in a world where most things come wrapped in a pretty plastic package or where means of living is difficult enough that it makes paying attention to what you put in your trash at the end of the day seem impossible. Don’t be disappointed if you try not to fail but it seems inevitable, because this is a battle against a system that doesn’t seem to care at all about the waste we’re producing or the impact we’re having in most scenarios, except in an extremely superficial sense. To endeavor in reducing the ways that make sense for your lifestyle is perhaps one of the best solutions we can offer for the betterment of this unfortunate situation. If we were all to do that we succeed in cutting off the beginning of the cycle where we can most effectively eliminate trash.
“Progress is the proof that you succeeded in trying.”
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