One of the most fundamental yet administratively, economically and technically challenging problems confronting the developed as well as the developing economies is an effective solid waste management system. The disproportionately high volume of waste being generated across various developing societies has triggered grave health and environmental concerns.
In the Indian context too an integrated, systematic and decentralised waste management system has remained rather elusive. From contributing to life threatening air pollution levels and soil toxicity, haphazard waste disposal practices have also resulted in chronic ground water contamination in almost all large and small industrial towns in India.
Carelessly discarded waste has posed high injury risk to the waste collecting personnel. Openly strewn waste heaps in different areas of cities usually become a breeding ground for disease mongering pests and rodents. Several incidents involving animal deaths due to ingestion of glass or plastic routinely come to light.
In India as well, stringent action is required to be taken for controlling waste generation by both commercial and domestic units. The government has to mandate the manufacturing units of various consumer goods to adopt a utilitarian packaging style
With the resident and floating population of Dehradun city burgeoning in remarkably steep proportions over the years following it being made the provisional state capital, the net generation of its solid waste has also gone up. The systematic segregation and disposal of such a large waste component is a task which requires not just huge space but also hefty human resources, finance and time.
The only sustainable solution to the menace of expanding waste base is a mindful cutting down of total commercial as well as household waste being currently generated in Dehradun. While the traditional waste management wisdom aims at effectively processing waste once it has been generated, the concept of waste minimisation takes the process to a whole new level.
It aims at slashing down waste creation in the process of manufacturing itself. Research and policy making needs to shift its focus on alternate methods of production which do not employ plastic and other unwanted materials in the production process. Besides, it is pertinent to employ environmentally friendly recycling practices prior to energy recovery, treatment procedure and disposal of wastes. A change in societal patterns of manufacturing and consumption are integral to the concept of waste minimisation.
The essential three R’s on which the process of waste minimisation revolves are reduction, reusing and recycling.
For any vision to become a reality it is important that ownership must be assumed at the governmental level, corporate level and public level. Systematic rules and policies regarding minimisation of waste barely exist officially at the governmental front. The municipal authorities need to develop a sustainable framework which must be included in the solid waste management handling and management rules 2016. These need to be implemented strictly through strong punitive action in case of defaulting.
A successful paradigm has been set by the government of New Zealand on this front. “Towards Zero Waste and Sustainable New Zealand” is an exercise being undertaken in a partnership between central and local government from 2000 onwards.
It focuses on the life cycle of waste, from generation to disposal. The aim is to promote resource efficiency at every stage of production as well as consumption. Waste prevention rather than waste disposal is regarded as more important here.
In India as well, stringent action is required to be taken for controlling waste generation by both commercial and domestic units. The government has to mandate the manufacturing units of various consumer goods to adopt a utilitarian packaging style.
All forms of plastic and polythene packaging of edible and non edible products has to be done away with. Easily decomposable and organic wrapping has to replace the conventional materials used. However the most valuable contribution in minimising of waste has to come from community residents at large. Any considerable reduction in household waste can go a long run in reducing gross waste output in the city. The kitchen leftovers are largely discarded food wastes which are completely organic in nature. This organic waste can be reused into making compost and manure for gardening use as well as for pet and bird feeding. Instead of buying commercial soil fertilising supplements, all kitchen refuse can make for an excellent plant growth booster. Besides, the dependence on commercially available foods and snacks should be reduced. Efforts must be made to cook snacks and nibbles at home, which are not just healthier but also reduce packaging wastage. For shopping purposes it is best to use old cloth bags as they are long lasting and totally eco friendly. Supermarket plastic bags should be avoided at all costs. Similarly all kinds of plastic cups, plates and container use should be stopped. Mindful efforts must be made towards repairing old dysfunctional household items rather than immediately replacing them. Reselling or donating unwanted furniture, books and other consumables in the neighbourhood or online is another way of ensuring that other people can use things which are still in a manageable condition.
One of the major components of the plastic litter which is routinely found across markets and tourist sites is discarded plastic water bottles. It is high time the use of mineral plastic water bottles must be stopped by people. Carrying metal bottles for storing drinking water remains the most health and environmentally conscious choice.
A great parallel can be drawn here from the small village of Kamikatsu in the south west Japan. Following the year 2003, the village embarked upon its journey of properly segregating and eventually minimising its solid waste. Today it stands out as the zero waste village of the world, with all members of its community actively participating in sorting and recycling of the waste.
The small town maintains a store where all inhabitants an drop their old utensils, clothes or furniture and exchange them for the items dropped off by others. Besides, there is also a local manufacturing unit in Kamikatsu where women make several products from discarded things like toys and clothes.
Several other western countries also have an ambitious plan to sustainably reduce their total waste generation in the coming ten years.
With the global rates of waste generation almost overtaking it’s the rates of urbanisation, it is a race against time for all the urbanised countries of the world. A complete remodelling of the waste generation and treatment system has become the need of the hour.
Admist a rapidly increasing population and the waste being created by it, somewhere ecology is getting painfully sandwiched. A pro active Governmental stand combined with initiatives taken by communities towards newer development models is the only way out of this chronic mess.
Monday, 08 July 2019 | Neeraj Kumar Pande | in Guest Column
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