The day began with late morning coffee and news on my cell phone. And then there came along a truck to collect waste. Swachha Mangaluru? Swachh Bharat? An interesting initiative I had been quite ignorant about. I took interest in it when I had to pay 0.5% additional cess on service tax. My insurance premium showed it just yesterday. Guess I have to pay extra on my phone bills too. Pay extra for waste management? What exactly is waste?
The dictionary will say it is a ‘material, substance, byproduct that is no longer useful or after completion of a process’.
But then, what exactly is Swachh Bharat? It is a campaign on cleanliness initiated by our Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It involves construction of latrines, cleaning the streets and so on. It is widely acclaimed to be politics free and is inspired by patriotism.
It appears that many have the misconception just like I had. It is not about just cleaning or collecting any waste. It is actually an awareness programme on hygiene and cleanliness for us Indians. Don’t deny the fact. We have been quite ignorant on these frontiers. The awareness is spread through advertisements on media. We have also witnessed the changes. New dustbins have been installed, waste is collected and announcements are made.
Though the awareness is spread, I have noticed that significant change is yet to happen. Handing over the waste is merely not enough. We should ensure that there is no toxic waste and also try to reduce the wastage. Reducing the amount of waste will not only reduce the burden on the environment, but also lead to monetary savings.
In Mangaluru waste is collected from door to door which is segregated, transported to landfill and organic waste is made into manure. The rest is either used to fill the dumping yard or is recycled. That is the actual plan of Mangaluru waste management.
Back in 2010 it was reported that Mangaluru need not worry of its waste till 2035, though it made about 200 tonnes of waste per day. But soon within 2014 there were complaints from the locals who live around the landfill near Pachanady about foul smell. Unfortunately that is where I live. But soon after these protests, red sand was dumped on the waste and the smell subsided and so did the complaints.
However there are other things than just smell the locals have to worry about. There are many health hazards while living near a landfill. Although one may say that the landfill does not leak any leach due to implementation of scientific methods, no landfill is leak proof. This leach contains a dangerous cocktail of chemicals like toluene, phenols, benzene, ammonia, heavy metals and loads of unwanted materials that you don’t want in your drinking water. Studies have shown that these may cause certain types of cancers, birth defects and other diseases. Where there is organic waste, methane, a green house gas is generated. This promotes to rise in atmospheric temperature.
This can’t be avoided. There are suggestions by experts that one can choose to locate at least two kilometers away from a landfill. That is a big challenge for many. However we can do certain other simple things. Reduce the amount of waste we make.
It is very interesting to note that there are companies that pay you to give your waste to them. They recycle the waste and also make a profit out of it.
‘I want to make a lot of money by doing good’ says Tom Szaky (Waste not, want not – making money from rubbish, BBC News, 2015). Tom Szaky is the owner of a company that buys non-recyclable waste like cigarette buds, biscuit wrappers, makes useful products and even makes a profit by selling them.
There are ways by which we can make quite some profit without being a multinational company. And yet help the environment and contribute to a greener tomorrow. Certain tips that I found helpful are,
• Plan the entire week’s meal: That way we can buy the required groceries in bulk, and also ensure that they are not wasted. And also reduce the unwanted packaging material like polythene bags.
• Buy refurbished goods: An example for refurbished goods is an item that is returned to the manufacturer due to defects while shipping. They are repaired, tested for functionality and defects before they are sold again. They also come with a guarantee and cost way too less than a new one. They are also better than buying a second hand item.
• Buying in bulk: Long lasting items can be bought in bulk. Even food items like butter have an expiry date of about a year. That way you will save the waste of packaging.
• Make your own compost: Organic waste that decomposes quite easily can be made into compost, even on a small scale in your backyard. This way you have compost for your flowering plants. And a beautiful garden.
• Recycle paper: I don’t exactly mean recycle the paper as taught in the chemistry class. What I mean is use every bit of the paper to do something useful. If you have a half filled paper, use it to write down your grocery list. The trees you save in a lifetime will thank you.
• Use E-bills: I was browsing my telephone company’s web page. I was quite happy to find that they offered me a 1% off on my phone bills if I opted for an E-bill. I would get my bill on my email. I made a small saving and the bill would be safe forever on the cloud.
• Borrow or Rent: This doesn’t make you a miser. But it makes sense to borrow the items that you need for a short period of time. Who uses a power drill for a whole year? I’d rather borrow it. You can rent a DVD than buying a new one. It saves you enough for your annual insurance premiums.
• Sell: I saw this advertisement on TV to sell unwanted goods on their platform. That is quite interesting when you have a bicycle that you haven’t touched for years. Sell it. That way you can make some money, a buyer gets to cycle in a cheaper way and you both reduce the burden of manufacturing pollution and waste.
There are many other ways to reduce waste. Unknowingly you might help someone in the process. The nation is trying to make a change. We can criticize on the topic or we can contribute in the process positively and teach others the way it should be done. Let us not be mere spectators. Rethink your routine in a greener way or at least share links on social media. When we have so many alternatives, let us not forget the taste of clean water, the fragrance of fresh air and the view of green earth.