My Waste, My Responsibility
I’m responsible for the waste I create. When asked if this is something that everyone associates themselves with, sadly the answer is a no, in our country, we still have a long way to go in behavioral change that can contribute to the waste management system that we currently have. However, there is an increasing trend towards leading an environment-friendly life, reducing carbon footprints among some sections of the society such as the students. There are multiple ways by which an individual can take responsibility for the waste they create.
STEP ONE: MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION
It primarily has to start with purchasing with consciousness. While purchasing any product the essential question to answer is, whether the purchase is made is essential, and is there any other option available to make my purchase environment friendly. Answers to that question can help an individual make an informed choice, if there’s an environmentally friendly alternative, it’s in the hands of the purchaser to make that purchasing decision. However, it doesn’t always have to mean buying products that are environment friendly, i.e, organic products where chemicals and pesticides have not destroyed the soil while they grew, products that are packed with minimal or no plastic or biodegradable alternatives. Multiple other factors contribute to a product being an eco-friendly option, from the stage of raw material production to the stage of its disposal and the aftermath including recycling and reuse among others. The scope of this essay is an individual’s responsibility towards the waste an individual generates and therefore the first step is to make that choice to make conscious and informed decisions on the product and the waste it will generate upon its consumption. The increasing demand for eco-friendly products and eco-friendly packaging of products can be seen as the changing consumer preferences, and thus when such demands arise, the supply chains fulfill them, therefore the increasing demand from the consumers for such products will change market perceptions, and the supply chains to find alternatives and shift to an environment-friendly angle from production to its disposal. There have been studies to prove that increasing consumer demands are driving environmental friendly markets. Incentivising individuals who segregate their waste is a way to build this behavior, rewarding people working in this area can also help in building this network, as although there are laws that obligate the people to segregate their waste, it is not the ground reality.
STEP 2: SEGREGATE THE WASTE BEFORE DISPOSAL
The second step to being responsible is to segregate the waste that you generate. The segregation of waste is to start with the individual who generates them. The definition of the waste generator can be derived from the Plastic Waste Management, 2016, India. Reference in this regard can also be made to Solid Waste Management Rules and Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules. The initial stage here is to group your waste into categories such as Biodegradable such as food waste, Non-Biodegradable such as plastic waste, and Hazardous waste such as biomedical waste like used injections, needles, expired medicines, electronic waste such as used batteries and tube lights and others. Although the categories may differ subject to the local authorities, the primary legislation governing this process is the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, India, the categorization has been thus made on that basis in accordance with Rule 4 that lists out duties of the waste generator.
This is the most basic segregation mechanism that has been in effect currently in India. Hazardous waste created on an institutional level such as hospitals is to be dealt with utmost care and precaution in accordance with Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules, 2016, and in the case of electronic waste, it is regulated by the E-Waste (Management)Rules 2016. Since this essay is limited to an individual’s responsibility, the same is dealt with in detail. On comparing with other jurisdictions, it can be seen that the waste segregation mechanism is wider than our country’s categorisation. Take for example the waste segregation system in South Korea, where an individual is to dispose of waste into categories such as general waste, food waste, recyclable waste, and over-sized waste. However, there is further categorisation whereby the recycling part one is to divide the waste into paper, glass, metal, fabrics, and so on. This categorisation thus makes the recycling part of waste management easier for the authorities and units concerned.
Therefore an individual has to segregate the waste in the above-mentioned category and dispose of them properly, i.e. the disposed of waste in India is collected by the waste collectors working for the municipalities. Therefore an individual’s contribution is to segregate the waste before disposal to appropriate channels as the authorities have in place.
STEP 3: RECYCLE AND REUSE
The third step is to find ways to recycle and reuse the waste one has generated. Recycle and Reuse is not only the responsibility of the local authorities, it is something that an individual can contribute to as well, when segregating your waste, check whether they can be recycled and reused in any other given way. According to the World Resources Institute, if food loss and waste were its own country, it would be the third-largest greenhouse emitter in the world with 4.4 Billion tons of CO2 emissions. In the case of food waste, making compost out of the same can be done, be used later as manure for plants. The concept of terrace gardens and home plants has been growing in the urban sections of the country, therefore the compost prepared is a complementary addition in such homes. The excess food and excess clothing can also be donated to places in need, there are various NGOs involved in this process who can be contacted. Technology has also been aiding this process, some applications and networks connect people with excess resources who are willing to donate to people who need them. The Roti initiative of the Mumbai Dabbawala Association is an example of making a difference by connecting the right people to reduce food waste. Goal 12 of the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations General Assembly is about Responsible Consumption and Production, which enunciates the necessity to recycle and follow sustainable production and consumption methods to keep this planet cleaner.
An effective waste management system does not nearly limit itself to environmental benefits, but also contribute to ending hunger (Goal 2 of the SDG) by better use of excess food, rather than them ending up in landfills, it can also contribute to good health and well being (Goal 3 of the SDG)as improper handling and disposal waste can be toxic and hazardous to humans and other living beings. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a classic example of an ineffective waste management system posing risk to the health of marine animals. This patch is the largest offshore patch with plastic accumulation. According to a study by the Deloitte named Price Tag of plastic pollution, the economic cost induced by plastic pollution in India is estimated to be around one billion USD in terms of loss of revenue in fisheries, tourism, and the cleaning cost borne by the government. Apart from affecting the economy and the marine animals, it also affects human beings on the consumption of seafood which has accumulated substances by the process of bioaccumulation. It is evident what is at stake when waste is not handled properly. Although it looks like a humongous problem that requires a system from government, private participants such as manufacturers and brand owners, importers to make this work, it cannot be disputed how an individual contribution can help shape the system and make it efficient and effective in process, the laws governing the sector, or the government alone cannot handle this menace, it is in every individual to contribute in all possible ways to keep our world a cleaner and healthier. The Extended Producers Responsibility is whereby the producers of the product are responsible for environmentally sound management of the product until its end of life. This is the responsibility of the producer as has been laid down in the Plastic, Solid, and E-Waste Management Rules. This is the responsibility of the producers of the products. The process is not one individual’s work alone, but an individual’s contribution is what makes up the system eventually. It is a collaborative process where each participant has an essential role to play, the laws have been laid down, it is now time for individuals to adhere to the same and contribute to a better world.