DON’T ‘WASTE’ YOUR GARBAGE

Deccan Chronicle - - DIS COURSE - (The writer is fo­cused on trans­form­ing waste into use­able re­sources with­out ex­ploita­tion of peo­ple or the planet. He is co-founder and di­rec­tor of Sam­purn(e)arth En­vi­ron­ment So­lu­tions Pvt. Ltd.)

The prob­lem of waste man­age­ment did not ex­ist even a few decades ago. Rapid ur­ban­i­sa­tion in the last few years has led to skewed con­sump­tion pat­terns. Ear­lier, con­sump­tion and dis­posal was mostly cyclic and part of the lo­cal cul­ture, but this has since been dis­rupted. While vil­lages pro­duce food and in­dus­tries pro­duce other va­ri­eties of ma­te­ri­als which form part of our con­sump­tion, ur­ban clus­ters swal­low the ma­jor­ity of it and the cyclic and re­plen­ish­ing has gone for a toss.

Con­se­quently, moun­tains of garbage and land­fills have sprung up, and rivers and the sea have be­come pol­luted, af­fect­ing ma­rine life and con­tam­i­nat­ing the very source of food and air we breathe. Mum­bai’s Deonar dump­ing ground is one of the largest in the world. It is 60 me­tres high and spreads across 160 hectares. Be­havioural change ex­perts say that it takes a cou­ple of gen­er­a­tions to change the mind­set to­wards cer­tain ideas. Psy­cho­log­i­cally, we de­test waste or garbage. This is the rea­son why after fin­ish­ing any pack­aged food or wa­ter, we dis­card the packet im­me­di­ately.

An­other harsh re­al­ity pe­cu­liar to In­dia is that man­ag­ing or han­dling of garbage is seen as the job of cer­tain peo­ple, who so­ci­ety has ex­cluded his­tor­i­cally and pushed down to the low­est rung of the so­cial lad­der.

It has taken a gen­er­a­tion to raise some aware­ness that garbage should be thrown in bins. But, throw­ing it in the right bin is im­por­tant as well.

While our cur­rent waste man­age­ment poli­cies guide us to­wards three-bin seg­re­ga­tion — dry, wet and haz­ardous — it asks for a more evolved be­havioural change. This is the rea­son why in­volve­ment of youth and chil­dren is im­por­tant. Suc­cess­ful waste man­age­ment re­quires a re­newed mind­set first of all, while rules and reg­u­la­tions, poli­cies, in­cen­tives and fines, in­fra­struc­ture and tech­nol­ogy play a sup­port­ing role.

There is also more fo­cus on de­cen­tralised waste man­age­ment where wet waste pro­cess­ing at the source for bulk waste gen­er­a­tors is be­com­ing mandato ry. How­ever, con­tin­u­ous, has­sle-free op­er­a­tion is of­ten a chal­lenge. Dif­fer­ent seg­ments of so­ci­ety gen­er­ate dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories of waste with dif­fer­ent com­po­si­tion (veg/ non-veg, oily/dry, cooked/ un­cooked) and weather con­di­tions make the pro­cesses more com­plex. While more train­ing and guide­line doc­u­ments are there to sup­port, it has also opened up op­por­tu­ni­ties for spe­cialised or­gan­i­sa­tions and en­trepreneurs to take this up.

DEBARTH BANERJEE

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