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Imagine that you are walking down a busy road and you see a landfill or a pile of garbage, what would come to your mind? Some might think that the people living in the neighbourhood are negligent of the garbage and some of us would probably brush off the topic blaming the administration for not doing anything about it. These are common thoughts that tend to cross our minds but if we think carefully, what other reasons can there be? While one of the prominent reasons for unorganised sanitation practice is the lack of a proper waste management system, the other most important reason behind those huge garbage dumps is that we, as individuals, don’t segregate our waste on our own, according to its use.

According to a joint report by Assocham and accounting firm PwC, India produces 62 million tons (MT) of garbage annually, of which only 43 Metric Tons are collected. Out of the collected waste, about 31 MT is dumped in landfills, rivers, and oceans, and only 11.9 MT is treated scientifically.

Our landfills are filled with so much urban waste like liquid waste, solid waste, plastic waste, paper waste, tins and metal, organic waste, recyclable waste, non-degradable waste, hazardous waste, nonhazardous waste, radioactive waste, sanitary waste, construction, and demolition waste, that if we don’t mend our waste management practices, India will reportedly need a landfill the size of New Delhi by 2050.

Waste segregation is a popular term, but most of us don’t know how to undertake it. We need to ask ourselves basic questions like, What are its benefits? What happens when we don’t do it? And as we go about our lives, huge amounts of untreated waste keeps piling up in landfills and water bodies. The end solution for this issue is proper segregation of our waste and building a strong waste management system.

What is waste segregation?

Separating the waste simply means keeping the wet, dry, and electronic waste separately, so that the dry and electronic waste can be reused and the wet waste can be composted. It also helps improve the recycling process.

How do we do that?

We can start basic waste segregation by putting up three garbage bins in our houses and offices.

  • The first Dustbin (Wet Waste)

The first bin segregated for wet waste can be used for perishable items such as food, vegetable or fruit peels, tea bags, etc. left in the kitchen or cafeteria.

  • The Second Dustbin (Dry Waste)

The second bin can be used for dry waste such as plastic, metal, glass, paper, etc.

  • The Third Dustbin (Electronic Waste)

The third garbage bin can be used for segregating e-waste like CDs, pen drives, bulbs, tube lights, computer systems, electric cables, keyboards, batteries, motherboards, etc.

If we don’t segregate our waste we also contribute to soil, air and water contamination, besides many other harmful effects of improper waste management. Exposure to improperly handled wastes can cause skin irritations, blood infections, respiratory problems, growth problems, and even reproductive issues. Improper waste management also adversely affects marine life leading to one of the major reasons for global warming.

Global Warming is one of the biggest concerns today, and I believe taking small steps ahead can solve larger problems. My mentors, I, and my friends started by segregating waste in our homes and now we run a campaign in Patiala city to raise awareness about waste management and help the community to implement it. Within a short time span, we have created an active community of 34 young people and have successfully persuaded 23 households to start waste segregation.

The challenges we face during campaigning are that most people do not think that this is a critical issue and they do not want to spend their time segregating waste as they think it's not productive enough. Also, the majority of people tend to believe that this is not our responsibility and the government is liable for it. Countering all the resistance, we persuaded them to start segregation by sharing innovative ways to reuse waste like making use of old plastic bottles to plant trees, using wet waste for composting at home, and giving ideas to earn and save a good amount of money by selling the dry waste like cardboard, newspapers, tin cans, metals, etc.

We can learn from other countries and environmentalists who are doing a fantastic job to eliminate this issue. While France became the world's first country to ban supermarket food waste and enabled large retailers to donate leftover food, on the other hand, artist and environmentalist Ruganzu Bruno created an amusement park, entirely by using and refashioning waste to make swings and life-size board games for the children living in the slums of Kampala in Uganda. Colombia came up with the solution called ECOBOT- which is basically a reverse vending machine located in shopping malls and public places etc. which encourages the process of recycling PET bottles. Closer to home in Chandigarh, India, we have the beautiful Rock Garden created by Nek Chand out of urban waste, industrial waste and home waste.

Most of us think of waste segregation as good practice but do not consider it our responsibility. For this, I would take nature as an example. It has been providing us with immense resources to serve our purposes since the beginning of time. Never has it said that this is not its responsibility, so how can we be comfortable with shirking our debt to nature? This is the sole reason why at present, our landfills and water bodies are filled with a huge chunk of untreated and harmful waste. The time is now. We should understand that this is our responsibility and we need to start working on it by this very moment.

The reason I started working on this issue was because it really hurt me when I saw that to serve our purposes, we humans have destroyed the beauty of our nature. With every case of a polluted water body, an animal gasping for air, and more, the deep negative impact of our negligence is becoming starker. Willingness to see nature in its original form and serve the voiceless living beings motivates me to put effort into this. I would like to invite you all to join us in this campaign so that we can all work together to solve this problem and create a better tomorrow.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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