LET’S START SEGREGATING
Out of all the contexts in which the word is used, ‘segregation’ has the best possible meaning in the area of waste disposal and management. Wherever it is used, in common parlance, the word is associated with separation, pain and tears. However, in the context of one of the biggest problems that the world faces today: waste management, we can essentially say that the future is bleak if we fail to bring in segregation. The word here, brings under its roof, a plethora of ideas, concepts and answers about the issue of waste management.
Every single human activity, physical, chemical or biological, produces waste in many forms. The way we deal with the waste, to a large extend determines the future of our planet.
Waste, irrespective of how, when and where it is created, have its own composition and peculiar features. Hence, if not wisely dealt with, it would become a threat to the environment, different plant and animal species as well as the generations to come. The fact that human population is growing at an uncontrolled manner and the development of technology is so rapid, indirectly implies that the amount of waste created is expected to increase manifold in the coming years. This further raises questions about how do we dispose it safely and urges us to think about ways in which it could be modified to usable forms so that the need to dispose them off is reduced.
If we look at the current scenario, we can see that landfills are the most sought after option by most of the developed, developing and underdeveloped countries. The way in which landfills eat up waste, of almost every kind, once and for all has encouraged countries to think of them as the most successful method of waste disposal. However, studies have shown that indiscriminate and irresponsible dumping of waste into landfills could be catastrophic in the long run. If not sealed properly, the contents inside seeps into groundwater and pollutes the water table. Crops nearby can take up nutrients from the soil so polluted. Another common practice is to dump waste into water bodies. Water, the elixir of life, is polluted so much that it needs to be treated multiple times before it could now be called elixir. A very recent picture that went viral in the internet is of a duck which came out of water with a used surgical mask hanging around its neck. Doubtlessly, it is high time that we educate people about managing the waste that they create, in the first place and reducing the amount of waste created in the second.
Here arises the need to segregate waste at the source which means at the very same place where it is produced. The process is exactly similar to what is done when difference of opinion arise in a family about an issue. The members sit together, talk about the issue, sort things out and arrive at a common conclusion. Similarly, the waste that a household generates, if segregated on the basis of its composition, like organic, recyclable, hazardous, sanitary etc. becomes much easier for disposing them off and recycling. The idea is so simple that keeping 4 to 5 bins in the place of just one can significantly impact our lives as well as our environment. Once segregated, the organic stuff which comprises mainly of kitchen waste could be used to prepare compost which meets the nutritional requirements of plants in our backyard to a considerable extend. Segregating organic waste and making compost out of it itself is an adoptable practise for Indian households where municipal solid waste management is a serious issue. The recyclable waste could be handed over to the local scrap dealers. This ensures that these materials are recycled and the scrap dealers are economically incentivised.
Having dealt with organic and recyclable waste, we still have to address the twin menace posed by hazardous chemicals and e-waste. That anyway cannot be managed at the individual level. Let’s believe in science.
There have been places in India where segregation at source is successfully enforced. The ‘Two bins One bag’ programme has gained wide popularity in Bengaluru. As the name suggests, every household in the city is provided with two bins of different color and a bag for putting the dry and recyclable waste. This has helped in creating a culture of segregating waste among the people. The Karnataka High Court has also mandated that the scheme be adopted by all households in the city. Similarly, the concept of ‘Wealth out of Waste’ or WoW was brought forth by ITC and aims at recycling household refuse by creating craft items from them. The glass jars, coffee cans, bottle caps, cardboard boxes etc. could be used for creating works of craft and sold in the market. A highly creative concept indeed. Initiatives of similar kind would not only help in addressing the issue, but also helps in nurturing a generation of responsible citizens.
To conclude, we know that creation of waste is an inevitable life process. The management of waste is the responsibility of each and every individual who create it. The ‘not in my backyard’ attitude that has developed in the entire human community over the years needs to be redefined. We are bound to keep our planet clean and must not pass on a dump yard to the future generations. In this regard, nothing really works well like the idea of segregation at source. It ensures that a better way to deal with waste is started at the household level, with every individual participating in it, thereby contributing to making the Earth a better place. Let’s be more responsible and start segregating.
Views expressed by:
M.A Development Studies
Himachal Pradesh, India