Waste management. A topic of concern for many countries including our own. As the population keeps escalating by the day, so does the waste generated. So far as of now, one of the biggest campaigns being the Swachh Bharat Mission( help clean India ) has been implemented all across the country starting in 2014. Since then, people have been taking the necessary measures to limit the waste they generate. However the problem at stake is that, Are the measures we’re taking to ensure waste management enough? Why do we still see waste scattered around on the streets we pass by everyday?
Before we jump more into it, let’s take a look at the background of what’s making our country the most waste generated society. Municipal solid waste (MSW) refers to the waste including industrial, institutional, commercial, residential and construction and demolition waste collected by the municipality . India generates roughly around 1,33,760 tonnes of MSW per day, out of which approximately 91,152 tonnes is collected and around 25,884 tonnes is treated. The MSW generation per capita in India ranges from approximately 0.17 kg per person per day in small towns to approximately 0.62 kg per person per day in cities. That is approximately 2% more than the United States of America making it the second most municipal waste generated country next to China. Not a very great record now, is it?
Sources say one of the causes behind waste generated in large quantities occur in villages and small towns. This is because most of these towns have now developed into manufacturing units generating industrial wastes which is one of the main constituents of MSW. Another problem is that despite the Swachh Bharat campaign being practiced in a lot of places, during an annual Swachh Bharat survey it was seen that there was a lack of responsibility from the municipalities. One more problem is that most of the villagers aren’t even aware on how to practice waste management nor do they know of any measures to reduce MSW.
So what can we do to help? Segregation. Segregation of waste also known as separation of waste is a well known initiative to tackle MSW. It involves separation of wastes into different coloured bins, primarily three bins that is; blue, green and red. Blue- plastic waste; green- paper waste; red- general waste.
The blue bin is used for collecting dry waste or plastic items like bottles, tetra packs, chocolate wrappers etc. This will be further segregated into recyclable and Non-recyclable items. These days, most people make use of plastic waste by turning them into more efficient means like pencil pouches, pen stands, small pots to hold plants and sometimes it can even be used in making an art piece.
The green bin used for paper waste is used for gathering organic waste like fruit and vegetable peels, rotten eggs, leftover food, puja flowers etc that is turned into manure which can, in turn be used as a fertilizer for plants.
The red bin is used for segregating domestic hazardous wastes like batteries, worn-out wires diapers, sanitary napkins, used masks etc.
Another action that has already been put to use since decades ago is that of Rag-pickers also known as Kabadiwala. These are people who generally make a living out of collecting waste materials like cardboard, newspapers, etc. In doing so, they help clean up a notable proportion of 62 million tonnes of waste that is generated annually in India.
We can implement the three-bin initiative by setting up the the bins outside small shops or on the outskirts of the suburbs so that the bins can be utilized by the townsmen anywhere they go.
However, yet another problem arises. Are the townspeople aware of how to utilize the three recycling bins? One of the major drawbacks of three coloured bins is that people dump sanitary napkins and diapers in the blue coloured bin that is meant for dry waste. And it’s not just diapers, people often get confused between the blue and red coloured dustbins and hence throw stuff into the wrong bins which would eventually lead to improper segregation and more contamination. This is done out of lack of awareness on how to use the bins accordingly. Another problem is that despite there being three dustbins, people still litter stuff on the side of the streets or near the dustbins rather than actually throwing them into the dustbin. One main reason for this is lack of deliberation towards helping reduce waste generation. What’s worse is that municipalities aren’t even showing proper committement on waste segregation and such.
One solution to this is that we can raise awareness or hold small programs teaching the use of these bins and the do’s and don’ts of waste management. These programs can be sponsored/hosted by NGOs or huge enterprises hoping for a change. Sometimes, some of the waste segregation management systems are handled by NGOs or business firms that undertake actions from the municipal corporations . One such example is that of the Jindal group situated in Delhi. What they do is that whenever ‘wet waste’ bins that are filled with old clothes, multilayered plastics or anything that cannot be reused by rag-pickers, the waste is sent to the the Okhla waste-to-energy plant that is managed by them. This way, the ‘wet waste’ can be put to a better use rather than being scattered on the streets.
Let’s take another example that is practised in Bengaluru, Karnataka. Fellow Bengalurians practice segregation at source by following 2 bin – 1 bag system that is quite similar to the three-bin system except here, the waste is separated into 2 bins and one bag- green bin for paper waste, red bin for hazardous waste and a reuseable bag for dry/ non-biodegradable wastes and should be collected from houses, slums, commercial areas on a day-to-day basis where the waste will be put to optimum use.
There are many more examples of such organizations making use of segregation but then the list would be endless. In conclusion, segregation being a cheaper mode of waste management has undeniably made changes towards a cleaner India better yet, a cleaner country and although it has made massive improvements in reducing waste generation, it still has more scope to aim for higher heights in terms of waste management. And with that, I end my views on waste segregation with a quote by a famous individual.
“Waste is worse than loss. The time is coming when every person who lays claim to ability will keep the question of waste before him constantly. The scope of thrift is limitless.”
– Thomas A. Edison