Explainer: Why waste management and segregation are crucial for sustainable living?

Experts call for waste segregation at source and effective waste collection mechanism to counter the challenge of waste management in the country.
Explainer: Why waste management and segregation are crucial for sustainable living?

Waste management has become a massive challenge in India as 62 million tons of waste is generated every year. Lack of waste collection facilities and improper waste segregation results in around 31 million tons piling up in landfills.

With 165 metric tons of waste expected to have been generated by 2020, the segregation of waste at source is much discussed. The separation of wet waste from dry waste can ensure a major shift in waste processing in a highly populated country like India.

The improper disposal of different wastes could lead to regressive impacts on the environment and public health. The experts are pushing for small remedies by every citizen at their homes to improve waste management.

Waste generation in India

On average, 670 grams of waste is generated by an Indian family every day of which the dry and wet wastes account for approximately 20 per cent and 80 per cent respectively. A family, therefore generates around 49 kg of dry waste and 1,950 kg of wet waste annually.

The increasing urbanisation and higher population density in a few cities also contribute to the waste generation. The local bodies face a humongous task of collecting and processing the wastes.

The waste includes liquid and solid wastes, organic, recyclable and hazardous wastes. Besides, waste is categorised as municipal wastes (schools, offices etc) and industrial wastes. Plastic waste accounts for 12 per cent waste generated in India.

With only the planet Earth being a place to live, it becomes the duty of every individual to protect it from denigration for sustainable living.

How to segregate waste at the source and avoid landfills?

The primary task in waste management is segregating the waste at source. Mixing the wet and dry wastes makes the process of separation practically impossible and economically unviable.

The households should ensure separate bags are used to store different wastes. When the dry and wet wastes get mixed together, further processing becomes tough.

The wet wastes can be converted into compost/vermicompost at sites around individual houses, colonies and apartments, which can act as fertilisers for various plants in roof gardens and trees.

In the absence of an effective waste segregation and collection process, around 70 per cent of the waste is not being processed and ends up in landfills.

Daunting amount of garbage in landfills

With a limited waste collection mechanism and segregation process, more than 70 per cent of the waste reaches the landfills. The landfills can become a source of greenhouse gas generation, besides increasing the possibility of fire accidents.

Ashish Agarwal, founder of Paryavaran Mitra, while addressing a webinar on ‘Little steps, Big impact Earth Savers’, organised by ‘Sustainable Living: Be Waste Wise’, said: “If waste segregation is carried out effectively, only 5-7 per cent of the wastes will reach the landfills while presently around 70 per cent of wastes are being dumped in the landfills.”

India is home to around 3,100 landfills, as mountains of landfills can be found in major cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Panipat and Bengaluru.

5 R method in waste management

Environmental activists and enthusiasts urge people to follow the '5 Rs' in waste management to arrest the menace. The methodology recommended includes steps to refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose and recycle.

Refuse: Start refusing single-use plastics from shops and establishments.

Reduce: Start reducing the use of harmful and non-recyclable plastics to save money.

Reuse: Start replacing single-use products in homes and offices.

Repurpose: Most of the daily use products can be used for some other purpose, with the help of imagination and creativity.

Recycle: Start recycling paper, cupboards, plastics and organics.

On average, an individual uses 83 plastic bags every year. A plastic bag takes hundreds of years to decompose, polluting the soil with various chemical elements. Plastic waste can result in soil, water and marine pollution.

By adopting proper waste collection and segregation mechanisms, while following the 5Rs, every individual can contribute to saving the environment for a sustainable living.

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