If we were to collect all the population of our country in a single space, there is only one thing that can outdo the area that people will occupy – the waste produced by us. There’s not enough land to fill with the landfill material we have. An average of 36.5 million tons of solid waste is generated annually in India, which roughly translates to 0.2 tons of waste per person per year. Doesn’t that make our dustbins are biggest deposit boxes?
Let’s talk about the capital. While travelling from Noida to East Delhi via Gazipur road, one can smell the area from afar. No, it’s not the scents of swaying flowers or sunshine, but a stench; an unbearable, nauseating stench that rises from the decomposing and decaying waste that is dumped in the landfill that runs along the road to Indirapuram. This biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste rots together all around the year, emitting harmful and highly combustible methane gas. In extremely hot weather, this waste catches fire, polluting the environment further. And adding to the woe, this landfill sits right across the residential area of Gazipur, making its residents highly susceptible to diseases. While the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan is driving out waste from homes and streets (apparently), the real problem lies in its management.
Time and again, we have heard, read and learnt about the waste production, or the excess of it in our country. Now let’s discuss what can be done about it, by us and for us.
In the year 1998, the government rolled out the BMW Rules. No, not the swanky four wheeler, but a different kind of trash, the real trash – bio-medical waste. Any waste that was produced during a diagnosis, treatment or immunisation of humans and animals is considered BM Waste. The rule provided a detailed framework and mechanism for proper disposal of BM Waste. Although there is no specific penalty, but non compliance can result in an imprisonment of 5 years or a fine of INR 1, 00,000.
What can we do?
If someone in your house is undergoing home treatment which involves disposal of wastes like cotton, plasters, bags or diapers, segregate them at the first step, before it reaches the big blue van. Yellow bags are used for disposal of BM Waste, so keep a pack of them and use them. Different treatment methods come with different sets of waste disposal instructions, ask your doctor or health advisor about it and follow them. For example, if someone is on dialysis, there is a lot of information available online that can educate you with proper waste disposal methods.
Since the demonetization, one kind of plastic is gaining rounds of popularity, the plastic money. There is another form of plastic however, that has been around and popular long before the plastic money came into existence, the plastic waste. In a classic example of better late than never, the government set up a regulatory framework for proper manufacture, usage and recycling of plastic bags to regulate the disposal of plastic waste in 2011.
What can we do?
Say no to plastic bags, or don’t say, but maybe just stop using them. What to do when the vendor packs veggies in it, you say? Take that huge, chic tribal print bag and create a cosy social gathering for your veggies before you freeze them to freshness. And oh, keep the tomatoes on top, unless you like the puree more! The point is to eliminate the usage of plastic bags. There are already a lot of things where one cannot avoid plastic; in kitchen appliances, bathroom accessories, general accessories…so many places! Avoid where you can; it will make a difference.
Batteries, when disposed in open, can leak hazardous chemicals like Nickel and Cadmium, poisoning by which can prove fatal to human and animal life. To curb this, an effective regulatory mechanism was issued in 2001 that deals in disposal of used lead acid batteries and their components. The rule is applicable and a mandatory for every manufacturer, importer, assembly unit, dealer, consumer and recycler.
What can we do?
Heard you got a new phone. Congratulations! What did you do with the last one? Stocked it for emergency use? And the one before that? Don’t say you threw it away! You know, at every gadgets and mobile accessories shop, there is a counter where you can dispose off your old phone properly. Manufacturers and recyclers have started running collection drives where they collect Battery waste from around the city. Get in touch with them and take a step towards maintaining a balanced ecosystem.
In the Basel Convention of 1992, India approved and signed the dealing of transboundary waste movement and disposal of hazardous waste. In 2008, a set of rules were framed for systematic generation, reuse, storage, transportation and treatment of hazardous waste. This category consists of waste produced in extraction and manufacture of oil & gas, petro-chemicals, petroleum, mines and minerals, lead based production, steel, zinc, copper, textiles, asbestos, tannery, etc.
What can we do?
At an individual level, maybe nothing, but as an employee of a company that deals with such waste, you can ensure that the disposal procedure is followed. One cannot go around checking every department, but one can educate colleagues and staff members on this, maybe hold a workshop or open discussion, and work together as an organisation, setting a benchmark for teamwork.
Steps by the society
On the brighter side, India’s population is its strength. In the rapidly transforming urban picture, individuals and families coexist in a society and can use this as a platform to change the way we manage our waste, at the grassroots. Hold meets, open discussions and educational drives to generate awareness about this humongous amount of waste produced and how can we effectively dispose it. As we read above, there are rules in place. What we need is an effective and efficient management to ensure that those rules are being followed. One can crib and blame the government and authorities for this or one can take initiative and bring that small yet significant change.
As they say, cut the crap!