In this age, waste management stands at the root cause of varied types of pollution around the world. Declining air quality, climate changes, breathing problems are just to name a few problems that we already face.. The World Bank reported that in 2016, 2.01 billion tonnes of solid waste was produced worldwide, which gave about 0.74 kilogram carbon footprint per person per day. Unregulated waste management affects the developing and under developed countries more than they affect the developed countries.
Most ‘developed’ nations ship their waste to developing or under-developed countries in exchange for a few thousand dollars. The onus then, of disposing off the waste is upon the receiving country. They can choose environment friendly methods or they can just dump it in landfills. Mostly, biodegradable waste is the accepted norm for waste disposal. However, in the latest case, Sri Lanka agreed to dispose of the waste produced in the United Kingdom, and it sparked a two year long legal battle. Sri Lanka found hazardous metal waste, body parts from mortuaries and other uncategorised waste and filed a writ. After fighting for two years, Sri Lanka will finally be sending off 240 containers of waste back to Britain. This was a bold step by the island nation to fight for its environmental safety.
Governments play a huge role in managing waste. Germany, Austria, South Korea and Wales recycle more than 50 per cent of their municipal waste. Making and implementing policies that encourage recycling, allocating funds for recycling of waste, giving concessions to industries that manage their waste and setting up ambitious goals to achieve in forthcoming years are the unexplored avenues that a developing country must tap on, to address the crisis.
India faces a massive waste management crisis owing to increasing urbanisation. We produce more than 60 million tonnes of waste every year, less than 45 million tonnes of it is collected. A marginal 12 million tonnes out that is treated and the rest is dumped untreated in landfills. There are a number of people who earn money out of collecting waste door to door, then further substantiate their incomes by selling recyclable material. There is no protective gear provided by the authorities to these people.
Sights of improper waste disposal, animals consuming plastic packets and floating bottles on canals and beaches is a regular sight in India. Every year several NGOs, corporates and schools initiate programs to clean up the environment. However, we still face this rampant issue due to lack of stringent regulations for waste disposal. Uttar Pradesh Government has initiated nine projects to clean Yamuna river flowing through Delhi. After cleaning the river to a large extent, it was realized that the drainage system needs to be reconstructed to avoid contamination of river water. The projects were ultimately stalled.
India conducts the Swachh Survekshan survey every year. For the fourth time in a row, Indore has retained the cleanest city’s title in 2020. Patna in Bihar was placed last in the list. The Indore Municipal Corporation segregates 100 per cent of household waste in garbage dumps. The biodegradable dumps are then used to make compost and fuel. Other states should follow suit and partner with non-governmental organisations to run awareness campaigns for citizens, induce technology into the waste management process, and join hands with private firms who ensure the implementation of the ‘improvement plan’.
Activities like rain water harvesting, best out of waste products and the concept of reduce, reuse and recycle has a limited scope. Every year, several parts of the country receive torrential rains and we face the problem of flooding and are left with damaged roads. It would be a good option of India to adopt the Netherlands’ method of making water absorbing roads, which will enable underground water collection which could then be directed to drought hit areas.
Another massive area that is generally overlooked is E-waste. With the increase in IT and communication sector, electronic equipments are being used exponentially.
The youth is one huge section of society that can bring about a change in the ways of a sustainable living. However, they imitate actions more than they listen to words. Therefore, it has become an undeniable fact that we need to teach them ways of waste segregation and disposal. School activities, corporate incentives to environment friendly actions and implementation of a stricter set of laws are the needs of the hour. It is onto us to create a more inclusive future for ourselves and for the generations to come.