• Ashvini Menon

Segregating our Solid Waste.

Updated: Sep 15, 2020

Tonnes of unsegregated waste is being added daily, to the landfills in our cities. This has resulted into mountains of garbage getting piled up, rapidly poisoning the environment and health of everyone living around. With our rising population, uncontrolled consumption of 'use and throw' materials, the peaks of these garbage mountain are only rising.

Our Role:

The key to this would be managing waste at source. That is to not have a - 'one dustbin fits all' approach for our waste.

The physical nature of every object we use, is different and they need to be sent back to earth differently.

Today we discard a rotten apple and old batteries together, in the same manner, even when the apple could have turned into beautiful compost and the parts of the battery could have been re-used.

In India, where the recycling system is not as well equipped as that in other developed nations, we needn't always wait for the government to strengthen the system or implement stricter laws. Here are some ways in which we can recycle most of our solid waste without having to depend on the city municipality.

We can start by maintaining a minimum of three separate dustbins. One for Wet waste, one for Dry waste and the other for Reject waste.

1. Treating Wet waste (Also called as Organic waste or Bio-degradable waste):-

This waste, which compromises almost 70% of our garbage bins daily. It includes vegetables, fruits, egg-shells, cooked food (vegetarian and non-vegetarian food), uncooked food (vegetarian and non-vegetarian food), garden waste, paper (without toxic inks) and such other 'bio-degradable' materials. If we treat this waste, we are solving a majority of our problem of the landfill. It can be easily treated in the following ways:-

  • Bio-composting: This is the easiest of all methods which in return produces, highly nourishing, organic compost. Read more details on how you can compost at home, in our blog, here.

  • Vermi-composting: This involves a similar process as above, but, with the help of earthworms. Maintaining a vermi-compost pit is slightly tougher than the bio-compost pit as we need to take precautions for the survival of the earthworms. The compost obtained from this is called 'gold soil' as it is the most nutritious of all organic fertilizers.

Photo courtesy: Swati Tare, Jai Ram Krishna Society - Harit Sena (Seen with the lovely team that has been bio-composting for the past 3 years. Here we are with our harvest. We pack and sell this harvest within our society for people to add to their plants.)

  • Conversion into Bio-gas: Producing cooking gas from bio-gas is also a great way of treating waste. Due to its installation and running requirements, it is usually initiated for large-scale usage.

  • Using equipment available in the market: Many social enterprises like Daily Dump do a great job of providing people with the right equipment and guidance to start composting.

2. Treating Dry Waste (Also called as Recyclable waste or Non-Biodegradable waste):

It compromises around 35% of our overall solid waste. Dry waste consists of man-made items that still have potential of being converted into other objects of use (waste that can be re-cycled). Let's look at some of the main contents of dry waste, below:-

A. Paper:

  • Old newspapers are readily collected by raddi wala (local newspaper recyclers in India). They also collect cardboard, packaging boxes and thicker papers.

  • Finer papers (without plastic coating and inks can be added to your compost pit. These will also help make the compost dryer when the water content is high.)

  • Making hand-made/recycled paper, in the DIY style, out of finer pieces of paper is also a great idea to recycle waste paper.

Photo Credit:- Athak Foundation's Facebook Page on their plastic collection drive in April 2019.

B. Plastics:

Plastics in India are recycled by a few social enterprises as well as communities of rag pickers. Plastics used should ideally be washed and stored to be given out for recycling. Thinner plastics like cling films, poly bags and other such disposable are not easily recyclable. Therefore, their use is best avoided.

  • Rudra Environmental Solutions, with their ground breaking innovation, have found a way to convert 'all kinds' of plastic into poly-fuel that can be used for running generators, pumps and heating purposes. They collect plastic via Keshav Sita Trust (That collects household plastic from all of Pune and Thane.) Mulund in Mumbai also gets their plastic collected via the Athak Foundation every month. (Our studio and home, send our plastics via Athak Foundation to Rudra Environmental Solutions.)

  • Local Kabbadi-walas and Raddiwalas (Recyclers and Scrap dealers) accept plastics like bottles, milk bags etc. They may not accept the thin plastics.

  • You might be familiar with a rag-picker in your area. You can go up and speak to them to see if they are willing to accept your monthly-quota of plastics. (Before the initiative by Athak Foundation was introduced, we spoke to a local rag-picker to regularly collect plastics from our locality.)

A screenshot of Karo Sambhav's website

C. E-waste:

E-waste is one of the most toxic forms of waste and should be the last things we send to our landfills. E-waste compromises of all kinds of electronics right from used pencil-cells to television sets and phones. We fortunately have a few initiatives in India, that carry on regular drives to collect e-waste.

  • Karo Sambhav App. available on Android's Play store is a great app to know the nearest e-waste collection centers. Their collection centers are spread across India. They are an extremely proactive team and are committed to solving the problem of excessive e-waste. Since e-waste doesn't fill up on our bins, on a daily basis like food waste. you can visit these collection centers once in 6 months. Calling them before visit would be recommended.

  • Every year 'Thane College' also known as 'B N Bandodkar College of Science' in Thane, Maharashtra, organises an annual e-waste (and plastics / old clothes) collection drive in the month of April. This drive is jointly supported by the staff and students of the college.

  • Local mobile repair shops in your area will also accept most electronic waste.

  • A Local kabaadi wala / raddi wala (local recyclers in India) would also accept electronic waste.

  • There are also many other social enterprises that collect and recycle e-waste. A web-search online for your own locality should help you find a few contacts for it.

D. Other solid wastes:-

  • Clothes can be donated or cut and reused. The excessive use of synthetic materials in fast fashion clothing today, makes their ending up in the landfill, harmful for all beings.

  • Wood can be recycled into furniture or made into smaller chips to be added to the compost pit.

  • Metals are purchased by kabaadi wala (local recyclers).

  • Glass and ceramics are also recyclable. One would need to speak to a local recycler for the same. Due to the difference in chemical components, coloured and clear glass are recycled separately.

  • Bio-medical waste like diapers, sanitary napkins etc cannot be recycled and end up in the landfill. Therefore it is best to switch to bio-degradable alternatives for the same like cloth napkins, eco-friendly napkins or menstrual cups.

We have these small bins in our studio to make solid-waste segregation easier.

3. Treating Reject Waste (Also called as General waste or Landfill waste):

This includes all objects of which nothing can be done - Medical Waste, Razors, Used Ear Buds, Sanitary Pads, Diapers, Broken Glass (These should be wrapped in paper/cloth to avoid injury to the person who picks them), Hair cuttings and Dust from floor cleaning. This waste is sent to the city land-fill as it cannot be re-used or re-cycled. This kind of waste usually fills up 5% of our waste generated. There is a need of reducing the production of this kind of waste too, because it ends up in the landfill and cannot be recycled/reused/composted.

Today, on a daily basis, everyone sends out 100% of all their waste out together to the land fill in form of mixed-waste. Mixed-waste we seen in landfills today is extremely burdensome on the environment. We need to say NO to mixed waste and promote segregation of waste in these 3 broad categories. As we read above - if 60% of waste is composted, 35% of it is recycled - We are only sending the remaining 5% of this reject waste outside as waste!

If we all follow it, we reduce our contrition to landfills by 95% every single day!

We must also not forget, that before mindful segregation comes mindful consumption!

Hope you have found this useful. If there are any other initiatives in India that are successfully helping manage waste, please write to us - ashvini@amvds.in and we will add it to the blog.

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