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Rethinking our Relationship with Waste

Updated: Aug 4, 2020

Managing waste refers to the collection, transportation, processing or disposal of garbage, sewage and other ‘waste’ products of human activities that occur in every community we live in. Improper waste management is a primary cause of environmental pollution. It may result in damaging human health through transmitting diseases and increasing respiratory problems from burning, it also may harm wildlife, on top of contaminating our Earth’s oceans and clogging grains and causing flooding. Greenhouse gases from waste act as a key contributor to climate change, and 5% of global emissions were generated from solid waste alone in 2016.

Consequently, in order to further public knowledge, as part of REST’s Individual Action Instagram Live series we initiated a conversation with Poonam Bir Kasturi- founder of Daily Dump. Operating across 17 Indian cities, they promote involvement of everyone in cleaning up India, through spreading awareness on the social, corporate and collective responsibility. Their ethos stems from the concept that efficient waste management results from a real sense of ownership of one's water and air- which induces a consciousness of respect and appreciation. Here at REST, we believe that talking to these experts in disparate industries can help drive change in global populations, through education on how to make changes in their personal daily lives from home and within communities to go on forward.

Daily Dump refers to the waste management business as the resources business, as ‘waste is not waste unless you think of it as waste: it is material.’ Understanding the concept of material flows and transitions in systems, especially of organic waste, allows one to break off from the traditional mindset of seeing waste with negative connotations.

60% of urban Indian garbage bags by weight consists of organic waste. This mixes with other rubbish including plastic and is generated into toxic detritus that use taxpayers, manpower and fuel for its disposal. However, this waste is never really gone, it damages our water, soil and air and re-enters our food systems…

There are many direct, affirmative and individual actions to manage waste efficiently at home, with 6 steps listed below that we learnt from the Live:

  1. Remove plastic, and switch to environmentally friendly and reusable alternatives, from all daily life including from present surroundings in your home kitchen, bathroom and living room.

  2. When shopping, think about where the items you consume are from and will go, and if you don’t need it- don’t buy it.

  3. Compost kitchen waste at home. This can be implemented through putting holes in any old bucket (13-15 litres), adding kitchen waste (eg. 1kg) and a daily thin layer of coco-peat powder (eg. 0.25kg) to dry out the organic food. Coco-peat can be bought online or from any nursery and its use results in an odourless and bugless process producing fresh powdered soil after a month. The notion of composting may sound daunting, but it is in fact an effortless solution and immense support exists-for example from Daily Dump. Through the journey from hating to understanding to acceptance, compost provides invaluable benefits.

  4. Educate young children and narrate stories with hands-on exciting experiences in managing waste. Parents and schools possess an important role in aiding the understanding of these vital concepts.

  5. Shift from chemical-based to natural and organic personal-care choices. These chemicals are transported in drains to rivers, lakes and oceans and wreak havoc upon flora and fauna in the long run.

  6. Segregate household waste. Keep the organic, paper and plastic separate. In India, there are professionals who purchase this waste to recycle it such as the kabadiwala.

There are some challenges to overcome for an integrated approach to waste management, through the balance of gaining affluence and acting sustainably. There needs to be collaboration between government and civic actions. There are not enough systems in India in place, but infrastructure is constantly getting developed. The current rules in India including the ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’ post-2016 entail useful regulations, incentives and punishments but the implementation remains the problem. People need to get sensitised; and compost, segregate and recycle. Most importantly, they need to change their behaviors and reduce consumption. There is vast hope for the future, as our current generation literacy levels are increasing considerably. The youth have the power to drive change with their reformed ways of thinking.

Author: Rhea

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