According to Wikipedia, waste is an unwanted or unusable material. Waste is any substance which is discarded after primary use or is worthless, defective and of no use. Examples include municipal solid waste (household trash/refuse), hazardous waste, wastewater (such as sewage, which contains bodily wastes (feces and urine) and surface runoff), radioactive waste, and others. In fact, waste mismanagement is a mammoth problem which needs to be addressed seriously. Burning of waste, dumping raw sewage and garbage in the rivers, accumulation of waste in a landfill, releasing untreated chemical or industrial waste into the river are various factors causing pollution. Ranging from poor air quality to polluted water bodies, waste mismanagement has been incredibly damaging the environment and therefore, we need to unearth solutions to this pressing problem. To tackle the issues of waste mismanagement we should follow the 3 R’s : Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Reduce what you do need and refuse what you do not need. By refusing what we do not need and making a few significant lifestyle changes, we can cut down the enormous quantity of waste that is being generated. Urban India produces 62 million tons of municipal solid waste each year. Increased commercialization along with use and throw mentality has lead to people buying new products and discarding the old ones within a short span of time. This has brought about a sharp rise in waste produced by the society as a whole. Carrying our own water instead of buying plastic water bottles; carrying our own bags for shopping instead of buying a carry bag for every purchase; using vegetable and fruit peels, eggshells, used tea leaves to make compost; using cloth napkins instead of paper napkins; using reusable cutlery and reusable cups instead of Styrofoam ones; buying second-hand items and donating used items are a few small changes that can make a big difference to our personal waste, which will lead to a reduction in the overall waste produced.
Reuse what you consume, whether multiple times or in different forms. Packaging waste accounts for nearly 43% of the municipal solid waste in India. Items such as cardboard boxes, all types of plastic, glass and metal containers, paper and plastic bags, tins and wrapping papers should be reused to improve our packaging footprint as well as save our money. During the festive season, temples across the country experience a surge in the floral waste and to tackle this issue many temples have started using this puja waste to make compost. Setting up of in-house composting units for all the temples will address this problem. One of the primary contributors to air pollution in our country is – stubble burning. We see this problem crop up every year and it’s high time we adopt other means to manage stubble. Collection of all the stubble using special machines and making large bundles of them to sell them to power generation companies which use crop residue as fuel, will not only bring down pollution but also give an opportunity to the farmers to make some money in the process. By taking such small steps we can reduce our waste to a great extent.
Recycle whatever you can so that there is minimum wastage. Recycling is a significant way to manage solid waste, conserve resources and save energy. In 2015 Padma Sri Rajagopalan Vasudevan, laid out a process of building roads by recycling plastic waste. Since then, India has built one lakh kilometres of roads in at least 11 states using discarded plastic. Likewise, every urban region should utilize its plastic waste into making roads rather than burning or piling up in a landfill. Various materials which can be recycled include aluminium, paper, glass, plastic, iron and steel. Recycling aluminium saves an enormous amount of energy. It takes 95 % less energy to make aluminium cans from existing ones than from ore. Glass can be recycled endlessly without loss in quality or purity. Furthermore, recycled glass is always required for making new glass to decrease energy used in the furnace, thus, lowering costs and making it profitable for the glass manufacturers. When used paper is recycled to create new paper, the need for cutting trees is minimized. This helps conserve energy and also reduces our carbon footprints. Hence, recycling different materials will lead to reduced waste production.
Waste mismanagement exists everywhere. In 2019, Mount Everest, the most sought after destination for international daredevil climbers, earned distinction as the “ world’s highest garbage dump” after tons of garbage and human waste was found on the natural wonder. To make this world better and cleaner, we ought to “Recycle, Reduce, Reuse, all our refuse”. Managing waste more efficiently will protect the environment and the health of the population, conserve resources and energy, reduce air and water pollution, and save landfill space. Thus, don’t waste waste.