REDUCE.! The answer is to stop contributing to the trash mountains. As much as we expect proper waste management, regular garbage pickups, and clean streets, most of us don’t think about what happens to the garbage after it is picked up.
Only those whose neighborhoods have been turned into official city dump yards know the real deal.
The air they breathe is the most polluted, leading to severe respiratory ailments to residents of all ages. The several hundred tons of garbage, comprising of a staggering amount of plastic, collected across the city every day are offloaded at these sites and burned in phases, leading to the stench, smoke, methane emissions, depletion of the water table, destruction of sensitive ecosystems, loss of habitat and countless other problems. All this is apart from the heavy emissions associated with the garbage trucks, their contribution to traffic and the blatant absence of dignity in labor for conservancy workers.
What is the solution?
Enthusiasts would say the solution lies in source segregation of waste and recycling. But as experts are quick to point out, recycling doesn’t remove the waste from the planet.
It merely brings it back in a new form, which is often of lower quality than the virgin product. The only real solution would be to prevent the production of non-recyclable and non-biodegradable waste, particularly plastics.! Food is always packed in fresh virgin plastics that are considered sterile and ‘food grade’. Have a look at your pantry to get an idea of how much of your food comes packed in plastic. Now imagine that coming out of every household in your neighborhood. No wonder the garbage bin in overflowing with stinking waste.! Even if all of these were to be recycled, the recycled plastic cannot be used to pack edible items due to the loss of purity.
While this may seem like going back in time, the solution lies in preventing the pollution, preventing all that plastic from entering your life in the first place. Several co-ops in India and abroad support the sale of organic groceries in ‘bulk’ or unpackaged, where a customer picks up their purchase in pure cotton bags, glass jars or steel containers. If you aren’t obsessive about buying organic food, you can speak to your local family-owned grocery store, requesting that your dry goods be packed in newspaper bundles like the older days or in your own cloth bags. If they refuse or say it isn’t possible since their goods come to them pre-packed, find a store that agrees with you. Now, while you may not get all your necessities plastic free, the idea is to reduce as much waste as possible and encouraging others to do the same.
Plastic in many forms
Besides packed groceries that form a huge chunk of household plastic waste, household cleaners, toothbrushes, sanitary pads, stationery, unnatural fabrics (polyester, fleece, nylon), packing tape (all those online purchases) and cosmetics add to the woes of the environment, chugging out toxic chemicals, plastic packaging and micro-plastic pollutants that are also harming your health. Much change can be achieved by making simple switches that will drastically reduce the waste we generate personally, leading to lesser waste going to dump sites every day.
-Nithya . T
Follow her on Instagram @greener_by_the_day for environment and sustainability related posts.