Waste in my community
The Oxford dictionary defined waste as any materials unused and rejected as worthless or unwanted. It can also be defined as any unwanted material that is thrown away for disposal. A natural part of the life cycle, waste occurs when any organism returns substances to the environment. Living things take in raw materials and excrete wastes that are recycled by other living organ¬isms. Nature reuses all of its by-products, with no waste in the end. However, human beings produce an additional flow of material residues that would overload the capacity of natural recy¬cling processes. We have disturbed this perfect balance by introducing new problems such as toxic and non-degradable wastes into the environment. These wastes must be managed to reduce their effect on our aesthetics, health, or the environment and that is where the importance of waste management lies.
Waste management is an effective way of improving the lives of many people in terms of sustainable development. It is often said that the implementation of proper waste management will help the successful execution of all 17 of the global sustainable development goals. Waste management involves the regular collection, transportation as well as processing and disposal or recycling, and monitoring of different types of waste materials. It includes the activities and actions required to manage waste from its inception to its final disposal. This includes the collection, transport, treatment, and disposal of waste, together with monitoring and regulation of the waste management process.
Studies show that on average, each person in urban areas produces half a kilogram of garbage each day. This doesn’t include the garbage we make indirectly – through the industry, agriculture, and mining. Almost twenty percent of Indians live in urban areas. This calculates to more than 36 million tons of garbage each year in cities alone. India’s garbage generation stands at 0.2 to 0.6 kilograms of garbage per head per day. The disgusting sight of garbage dumped on the walk-ways and public roads is very common these days. Overflowing drains and plastic wastes floating on the surface of rivers are sights you cannot miss in this country. The air we breathe, drinking water, lakes, rivers, wildlife areas are all polluted by the unscientific methods that we adopt towards waste management.
The negative impact on health caused by the lack of proper waste management can cause serious hazards. The Ebola Crisis of 2013 which took place in Sierra Leone is a very clear example where livestock consumed human wastes and solid wastes that contained diseases and antibiotics. They contracted the disease which builds up antibiotic resistance. Another serious concern is the breeding of mosquitoes in accumulated wastes which eventually results in the spread of cholera, dengue, and other diseases. The toxic emissions created by uncontrolled burning can cause lung diseases, skin, and eye conditions.
Waste management practices vary based on location. There are also differences based on things like residential versus industrial. Usually, residential waste is handled by the local government and commercial or industrial waste is the responsibility of the creator of that waste. The waste disposal issue has been given a small budget by the Government. It is not a secret that the municipalities are all ill-equipped to deal with the massive amounts of waste they collect every day. Another problem is their inefficiency in collecting the waste. Currently, the average rate of waste collection is only about 50 to 80 percent. We can either blame the municipality for not having enough resources to collect all the garbage or take the blame for generating such huge amounts of garbage.
Another scarier part about the day to day waste collection methods for corporations is that they undergo no scientific process to dispose this waste. Their go-to method has always been dumping these wastes in a barren land or to use it all as a landfill without using landfill liners. Waste dumping can contaminate the land and groundwater with pollutants, toxic chemicals, and waterborne diseases. This will eventually lead to malnutrition and stunting in children. Though waste generated has increased, the way we deal with the disposal of waste has not changed in over ten thousand years. We pile it and then burn it, or bury it in some out-of-the-way place where we forget about it. But right now, we have too much garbage and not enough places left to throw it away. Improper disposal of solid wastes has led to groundwater contamination, air pollution, health hazards, etc.
It is imperative on the part of municipalities to separate the biodegradable from non-biodegradable waste. Biodegradable wastes can then be subjected to composting. Non-biodegradable wastes then further have to be categorized on the basis of their toxicity. Toxic wastes, when dumped in the land, may eventually contaminate and poison groundwater. They have to be stored in tightly-sealed underground containers.
Wastes like plastic, metal, paper, etc. can also be subjected to recycling. In some ways, the waste can serve as a resource. Of course, all of the above requires a hike in the waste disposal budget. The municipalities need to be taught that wastes like plastic, metal, paper, etc. can also be subjected to recycling. In some ways, the waste can serve as a resource! Of course, all of the above requires a hike in the waste disposal budget. The municipalities need to be taught the technologies described above so that they can deal with the waste effectively.
Why is waste management important? As individuals, we need to realize that we do generate quite a lot of waste. It is important to reduce our wastage of resources so that we don’t pressurize our weak waste disposal system. Unlike hundreds of years ago, most of our waste increasingly belongs in the non-biodegradable category. This means simple waste management techniques such as burying and burning aren’t as effective anymore. One of the reasons why waste management is important today is that proper waste management can be profitable to the community. It can cut production costs in the long run. Recycling and waste management can lead to bigger profits economically and socially.
The Indian food and grocery market is the world’s sixth-largest. Its retail contributes to 70% of sales. The Indian food retail market is expected to reach 61 lakh crores (US$915 billion) by 2020. Food waste management has become a mammoth task for the industry. About 40% of the food produced in India is wasted according to the U.N Food and agriculture organization. It also points out that every third malnourished child is also Indian. If we successfully fill the gap between supply and logistics, we can bring down this significant amount of food wastage. We need to reduce food wastage to feed the 194 million Indians who go hungry on a daily basis. Simply by planning and portioning ingredients, as well as keeping an efficient supply chain, companies such as restaurants, supermarkets, and food factories can boost profits by as much as 10%.
Efficient policies should be framed and enacted in order to surge the growing volumes of waste generated. Proper funding should be ensured primarily. Local-level and state-level government bodies should be involved partially if not completely in waste management. Coordinating the relevant agencies is also important because the lack of it may result in duplication of efforts and resource wastage. Defining the roles of individuals, functions of different state and local government organizations and agencies is a necessity in the world we live in. Environmental task forces can be created with the help of different agencies and committees, projects and assignments can be assigned related to waste management.
The public awareness on solid waste management and its issues is very meager, it needs to be improved significantly. To achieve this goal, the integration of environmental education into the school curriculum is necessary. India, in the current scenario, has a very bright future in the startup ecosystem. The government should encourage more investments in the industry of supply chain and logistics. It’s high time we start combining technology with real-world problems and solve them eventually.
Waste is a natural by-product of any process on Earth and it cannot be avoided. It can be an asset or a liability depending on the management system applied to it. Waste Management is no rocket science but it makes a huge difference if implemented systematically and scientifically. Let’s keep our streets cleaner, people healthier and our community stronger.