The problem of untreated waste is threatening to engulf the globe, and we need to take urgent measures to resolve it, says Anuradha Sahu
There’s no such thing as ‘away’. When we throw anything away, it must go somewhere. ~ Annie Leonard, proponent of sustainability.
Mumbai city with its zesty get-up-and-go-attitude and unique charm holds a fascination for all, making it a favourite ‘home-away-from-home’ destination for people from across the country. However, the once-glorious and picturesque island city, today stands unrecognisable as it struggles to cope with an ever-increasing population and ascending waste scenario. Poor urban planning, inadequate infrastructure, ineffective implementation of regulations, and a pathetic civic sense have changed the once pristine cityscape beyond recognition, which resembles nothing short of a garbage dump!
In the wake of all this, the civic body (MCGM/BMC) issued a directive: “BMC will not collect ‘mixed garbage' from societies and establishments.” This order implied that while BMC would collect dry waste, societies would have to process their wet waste and research their own wet disposal options. Though small societies were excluded from this directive, huge complexes, hotels, restaurants, malls, and large spaces that generated a daily waste exceeding 100 kg were not. The landfills at Deonar and Mulund had long exceeded their dumping capacity and required closing-down on an urgent basis. There were frequent occurrences of sporadic fires at Mumbai’s oldest and largest landfill in Deonar, a definite cause for worry. One such fire was so intense that it was visible even from space, according to a NASA released satellite image.
Since the dumping grounds were full, the opinion was that it was imperative to disseminate the knowledge of waste management and disposal amongst the masses, to reduce the burden on landfills. Segregation was the key to waste management.
A report by the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) clearly mentions the lurking dangers landfills pose globally. Waste that was not treated scientifically was highly dangerous and impacted neighbouring areas adversely.
The BMC's directive created quite a furore as varied reactions came forth. Many were upset with the idea of having to shoulder what they believed was the responsibility of the civic body. “Isn’t it their job? Why should we be burdened with the job of the BMC?” frowned Divya. Some were confused and clueless, “What is the difference between wet and dry waste?” queried Arpita Shah. “What goes where?” Questioned others, “Where’s the space for so many bins inside the house or compost pits outside?” “What is compost?” “Won’t the compost pit or container harbour insects, foul smell, etc.” “What do we do with the compost?”
But there was no looking back and options had to be found.
Mixed garbage is a cause for concern, not only for landfills but also for the garbage collectors who have a relatively high mortality rate, given the professional hazards they encounter daily.
What is waste management?
Technically speaking, waste management or waste disposal comprises all the activities and actions required to manage waste, right from its inception to its final disposal—not just collecting rubbish and taking it to a tip. It is a cyclical process that involves assessing/identifying, collecting, transporting, treating, and recycling/disposing waste, together with monitoring and regulation.
Waste management experts felt that of the 9,400 metric tonnes of garbage generated daily by Mumbai, if the city recycled the wet waste, it could reduce the amount of garbage transported to its overburdened landfills by 93 per cent. Not more than seven per cent of non-recyclable and inert waste is required to be dumped at landfills.
In 2016, the Bombay High Court issued orders to halt all new constructions in the city till the civic body complied with the Municipal Solid Wastes (MSW) rules formulated in 2000 and came up with additional landfill facilities alternatively.
Post the notification, the BMC wards held subject-related workshops, exhibitions, and demonstrations all over the city to educate and help people make informed choices. Housing societies followed suit and invited NGOs to familiarise the residents with waste management. Cleanliness drives were organised by schools, colleges, housing societies, and authorities alike. To motivate, appreciation certificates and awards were given for effective implementation of waste management. ‘Harit’(green) tags were granted to housing societies, individuals, and organisations that took the proactive initiative to segregate waste and set up their own composting units.
Not so long ago
At a time when the garbage woes had not escalated to the current state, one remembers the ubiquitous ‘kachrawala’ who would come lugging a big plastic drum and manage the show all by himself. In fact, it was his regular presence that kept households clean as he carried away everything unwanted in the house—from kitchen waste to old plastic bags and bottles, chipped glass, dead batteries, cartons, and crates. Accompanied by his family, between themselves, they would cover the entire neighbourhood and also take care of the sorting. Come to think of it, recycling was known to them even before it became a civic norm.
Mili Shetty, a citizen activist and resident of Charkop, Malad, walks the extra mile to transform garbage dumps into beautiful green zones with dedicated efforts and due support from the government bodies. Whenever she comes across any unsightly dump yard, Mili and her motley group approach the concerned authorities for a ‘go ahead’ to clean and transform the place.
Resident of Goregaon, Ramita Mehta says, “Our society has been segregating waste even before the order came by. Wet, dry, electronic—everything is segregated at source. We also carried out door-to-door campaigns to raise awareness on the subject of garbage segregation.” “It’s the need of the hour,” she adds.
“It is the mindset more than anything else that needs to change,” said Satyen, whose society has implemented the rule well.
A classic case of transforming a dump yard into a lush haven of greenery is that of ‘Devbaug’, the creation of environmentalist couple Nusrat and Afzal Khatri, recipients of the Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar, 2007.
These days, people walk into Samta Nagar Police Station not only to lodge complaints or make passport enquiries but also to learn about waste composting. And when the police staff need a break they simply head to the one-and-a-half-acre oasis at the back of the station.
“Thanks to the efforts of the National Service Scheme (NSS) students from Thakur College who put in long hours after class and the labourers from South Ward who diligently cleared all the garbage, the place slowly transformed,” recalls Afzal Khatri. “This makes it the first police station in the city to set up a composting pit and process its own biodegradable waste.”
Green waste from the nearby municipal market also finds its way to the pit and is turned into rich compost. Bins are in place to dissuade random littering by people. There’s a certain freshness in the air as fragrant flowers have replaced the stench and filth. An orchard abounding with fruit trees and singing birds now stands in place of an otherwise grim and grimy dump yard.
“The environment can be kept clean if two principles are followed: Practice solid waste management to eliminate toxins and prevent global warming by planting more trees. We urge people to not litter and recycle waste,” says Afzal.
The disconcerting fact of ever-mounting waste staring us in the face is indeed daunting. It’s a problem that adversely affects public health and environment, universally. Every city has its own tale of woe and triumph.
Led by the enigmatic Poonam Bir Kasturi, Daily Dump, a local NGO, advocates composting and better waste-management practices and works tirelessly to change the city’s attitude towards garbage.
“Ours is a design-led company where we use design to help imagine alternative scenarios that can help change behaviour. We are mindful of looking at the whole systems and understand that the context of India has its own challenges. Our objective is to reduce waste, improve material recovery, and enable better livelihoods through the voluntary collective action of urban citizens.”
The story of Khilda Baiti Rohmah from Indonesia, popularly known as the ‘Garbage Queen’, is an experience worth listening to. Her care for the waste collectors as well as her skills and experience in managing waste and turning it into valuable things that empower people (especially women) from lower economic backgrounds are exemplary.
In 2006, Khilda had come across a garbage collector in dire straits, whom she was unable to help financially despite her best efforts. This incident and a string of other harsh realities led Khilda to investigate the methods of utilising waste efficiently and economically so that it helped people around her. Khilda formed the Sampahkoe community, together with her friends, under which the ‘Trash for Life’ programmes involve social movements on various themes like charity with waste, saving waste, garbage collection, shopping with cloth bags, clean and healthy lifestyle, water, and sanitation.
Sweden leads the way
At a time when landfills still remain the basic mode of waste disposal in most nations, the story of Sweden is awe-inspiring, to say the least. With good management, proper civic sense, education, and planned management, the Scandinavian country has converted waste-management-and-disposal into a very profitable business.
It has become a world-leader by revolutionising its waste management system and set an example for others. In fact, it imports nearly 800,000 tons of waste from other countries to feed its 32 waste-to-energy (WTE) plants and is on its way to achieving zero waste and sustainable energy by 2020.
Nations around the world observe ‘Earth Day’ on April 22 every year. It was first organised by Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970 to promote ecology and respect for life on the planet as well as to encourage awareness of the growing problems of air, water, and soil pollution.
Let’s work for a waste-free society and pollution-free future. Continuous evolving and consistent efforts supported by technological advancements can surely open the doors to ‘Zero-Waste Living’.
Let us celebrate Earth Day, Every day!
The three R’s of environment
Waste minimization can be achieved in an efficient way by focusing on the three R’s—Reduce, Recycle, and Reuse.
Get to know the rules of recycling.
Give up the plastic bags.
Plan your meals. Eat fresh.
Use the reusable containers and ban the disposable ones.
Repair rather than discard.
Cancel unnecessary mail. Do not use paper to print unless really required.
Stop buying bottled water, canned drinks, processed and packaged food or beverages.
Buy products with little packaging.
Buy daily-use items in bulk instead of in smaller quantities. This is a money- saver as well as a waste-reducer.
Use rechargeable batteries.
Wear cotton. It's cool, comfy, and environment-friendly.
Buy an all-purpose household cleaner instead of multiple ones for various tasks. Herbal cleaners have an edge over the chemical ones.
Use DIY cleaning agents like baking soda and vinegar or olive oil with lemon juice, a good alternative to furniture polish.
Sell or donate unrequired items
Used paper and envelopes can be used as scrap paper for making notes.
Cardboard, newspaper, and bubble wraps can be used as packing materials.
Foil and egg cartons can be used for art projects in schools and nurseries.
Jars and pots can be used as small containers to store odds and ends.
Plastic and paper bags can be reused in the shops, used as bin bags around the house, or as wrapping paper.
Clothes, towels, and bedding can become washable cleaning rags and mops.
Some sewing skills can turn old tee shirts into floor rugs or dusters.
The good old handkerchief is a better option to paper tissues. Save paper, save trees.
Segregate, Recycle, and Reuse. Make a difference today for a better tomorrow
Life Positive follows a stringent review publishing mechanism. Every review received undergoes -
Only after we're satisfied about the authenticity of a review is it allowed to go live on our website
Our award winning customer care team is available from 9 a.m to 9 p.m everyday
All our healers and therapists undergo training and/or certification from authorized bodies before becoming professionals. They have a minimum professional experience of one year
All our healers and therapists are genuinely passionate about doing service. They do their very best to help seekers (patients) live better lives.
All payments made to our healers are secure up to the point wherein if any session is paid for, it will be honoured dutifully and delivered promptly
Every seekers (patients) details will always remain 100% confidential and will never be disclosed