Waste is defined as unwanted or unusable material or substance, which is generated by every single activity we conduct to satisfy our needs and demand. However, waste generation is not limited to households and industries. Along with industrial and domestic waste, agricultural and commercial waste also contribute to the increasing burden.
Domestic waste is mainly categorized into two, bio degradable and non- biodegradable. While biodegradable waste can decompose under natural circumstances, non-biodegradable needs to be properly segregated for proper disposal. Even though most of the non- biodegradable is plastic, only 9% of the plastic used globally is being recycled. According to reports, it takes 10 to 1000 years for plastic dumped in landfills to decompose. Which means all the plastic we have manufactured since the dawn of 1907( Mr.Leo Baekeland created Bakelite), is still continuing to haunt us. From the bristles of brush to milk packets, plastic is omnipresent. Due to changing consumer behavior and increasing demands, plastic is the only financially viable material which is able to deal with the current scenario and we as global citizens are continuing to use it even though we know about its repercussions.
Normally agricultural waste can be managed without much harm to public…but care needed to handle that waste if not, the situations worsens as in the case of extreme air pollution in parts of North India during winter…Post-harvest, remaining roots, stems, unsold yield, etc are burnt to prepare the soil for the upcoming season, resulting in the generation of methane and nitrous oxide which are greenhouse gases. However agricultural waste can be metamorphosed into useful and valuable manure.
As per a study, 310 kg of toxic chemicals is released by industries every second globally, into our land, water, air and soil. Indian industries generate about 74.6 lakh tons of hazardous waste annually, 46% of which goes to landfills contaminating the soil and groundwater. A fair amount of industrial waste is also dumped into water bodies shortening the life of drinking water. The main culprits in India being paper, pulp, dyeing, electroplating industries that let out their dyes, detergents, acids, salts, and heavy metals like lead, mercury pesticides, etc, putting an end to the life of aquatic organisms damaging the ecological balance.
But in the 21st Century, the emergence of E-waste has been added to the already existing burden. . For Eg. Every year 6,38,300 tons of E-waste ( 2017) is generated by Canada. The pace in which E waste is generated, there is hardly anytime or technology to recycle or process it properly. According to reports, 54 million metric tons of E waste was generated last year, most of which was transported to developing and underdeveloped countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Bangladesh, India, etc,.
Globally, 2.01 billion metric tons of waste is generated annually. The world is submerging in trash, yet the developed countries continue to seek further economic growth, whose victims are under-developed countries and developing countries who serve as dustbins for them. Many African people are involuntarily exposed to hazardous elements like mercury, lead,etc contaminating the ground water and soil . In Nigeria,the level of lead in groundwater is above the prescribed level leading to water scarcity. African countries like Ghana, Tanzania, etc are choking due to the inhuman behavior of advanced countries.
Similarly, the current scenario in India is discouraging and disheartening. India generates 277 million tons of municipal solid waste (2016). we are the third largest E-waste generator in the world after china and USA while our recycling capacity is limited to one forth, generates 26000 tons of plastic waste daily making it the 15th biggest plastic polluter globally. India ranks 168 out of 200 in the environmental performance index 2020.
As per reports, if we continue to generate such amount of massive waste, India with 3.28 million square Kilometers of land would require 66000 hectares of land to dump its waste, which is about the size of Bengaluru . If waste is not managed or controlled properly, we would definitely be the victims of our actions…. deadly diseases and disasters turning our valuable humanity into trash. We are digging our own grave and we are gradually falling into it. More than that, each of us are committing an unforgivable sin by killing the organisms around us. We, in order to survive the rat race, often forget that plants, animals, insects, birds, etc, belong to this same world as much as we do. We cruelly murder many of them paving way for our own destruction.
However discouraging the scenario it seems, there are countries which re-instills our faith in mankind. With equal and enthusiastic participation of citizens and government, Sweden has made it possible due to a sophisticated waste management system and people’s genuine concern regarding their duties and responsibilities. While landfills all over the world are overflowing, Sweden is the only country capable of legally importing waste to keep its recycling mills working as the amount of waste going to landfills in Sweden is as less as 1%. Sweden’s recycling rate being 99% , is the most beautiful reality in the world. While Sweden, Germany, many of Western countries, Singapore.. seems like an impossible vision came true, countries like Turkey and Chile give us a reality check. While Sweden is having 1% of its waste disposed into landfills, Turkey’s 99% of waste ends up landfill.
To make drastic changes, government intervention is highly required. It isn’t that we are not having laws and legal stipulations to manage all sorts of waste but we all pretend the other way round. Our Law Enforcement is weak and less stringent. Every time, the government does have a reaction but they always fail to take appropriate/delayed action just like when JNPT port ( Mumbai) used to dump 20000 kg of waste every day. There must be a ban on single use plastic
We elect our government and thus they are obliged to satisfy our demands. Just like schools, clean toilets, etc if proper waste management is our genuine, honest, stern and unwavering demand, Government will have to satisfy it. However, the recent initiative of the present Government, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, which is a country wide campaign introduced to eliminate open defecation and improve solid waste management, is a great beginning, marking the dawn of a NEW INDIA.
Our attitude towards this emerging disaster should also change. Many of us do not believe that we can make a difference and prefer not to take any action, thus silently supporting the evil. The problem must be tackled at the grass roots level which is by educating and developing moral values among children. All of us must realize that small changes can make a big difference, like not throwing biscuit wrapper on road or planting a tree.
However, I would like to suggest that, since students spend most of their time in schools, why not gardening and cleaning be given importance just like sports and arts. In reality, intellectual growth and personality development are equally important in the contemporary world. Providing grace marks for the voluntary participation of students in such activities must be a seriously considered.
To conclude I would like to draw your attention to some brilliant individual efforts, which shines like bright stars in other wise cloudy sky…
Breathtaking ideas of people like Ms.Anu Tandon and Ms.Neelakshi Devi are an inspiration to the upcoming generations. They have taken up recycling as a full time business, converting trash into treasure. Its people like them who help us believe in the existence of humanity.
Just like them we must be the change we want to see because the greatest threat to the planet is the belief that someone else will save it.