Of the many battles India has been fighting post its independence from the British crown, the biggest and the gravest is one that most of us Indians are not even aware of. Waste generation and management is the battle we’re referring to here. The outcome of this struggle and our commitment to remaining environment friendly will ultimately determine our survival. Going by recent news sources, Indians generate a total of over 1,00,000 metric tonnes of municipal solid waste (MSW). No, unlike most other countries these are not annual stats. This is the amount of MSW generated in our country on a daily basis. The alarm bells have started to ring in major cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru where the municipal corporations have been struggling to safely dispose household waste and ward off a number of issues such as buildup of pollutant gases and outbreak of fires and diseases.
Waste to Electricity
About a year ago, some of the researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) designed a technique to use e-waste to treat other disposable waste from households and at the same time generate electricity. E-waste refers to discarded pieces of electronic appliances and devices such as television screens, mobile phones, and computers. This is certainly the way ahead but the project has not found many takers or financial support from the government agencies of the country. “Cheaper, economical and eco-friendly process of this kind can be utilised for large scale application with suitable process development”, say the researchers.
Individual and community effort towards composting is one of the safest and most effective ways of managing bio waste. At the individual level segregation of bio waste and manual use of composting kits is one excellent method to tackle piling up of peels, food, and other bio waste. Alternatively, communities can pool in resources and purchase larger composting machines while simultaneously making a determined effort to collect bio waste, compost making, and utilisation of the compost to maintain an organic garden or farm. The government can work towards introduction of subsidies for composting machines and incentivize such activities.
Lack of sanitation facilities is one of India’s greatest woes. While a lot is being done to encourage people to build and use toilets and to stop the practice of defecating in the open, an equally determined effort needs to be made to encourage the use of bio toilets. Currently, almost 12 percent of the low cost toilets that are being installed in rural regions are connected to a refuse collection pit. This is responsible in a large way to contamination of groundwater sources due to nitrate seepage. Permeable Reactive Barrier (PRB) toilets and bio-digestor toilets are environment friendly alternatives that we must now consider.
Greywater is the waste water that comes from households but is not contaminated by fecal material. This means all the water that is drained from sinks, baths, showers,, washing machines, water purifying units, air conditioners etc. is called greywater. Collection and treatment of greywater is an easy and environment friendly process but much of this is lost due to drainage of this water with the toilet’s sanitation system. Greywater collection and treatment systems reduce the demand for fresh water to a very great extent. Like in most other cases awareness and initiatives for greywater recycling in households are almost nonexistent in our country, though.
One of the simplest methods of handling waste in an eco-friendly way is by segregation and recycling. Unfortunately, despite its simplicity this is not practiced in any significant way across India. Of late, recycling of glass and paper is being initiated in many places but the more important forms of recycling (particularly recycling of plastic waste) is not being practiced in most places across the country.
To be able to remain an environmentally sustainable society and to make our country a better planet for the generations to come, it is very important that we determinedly undertake and motivate others to convert our waste into environmentally sustainable products. Segregation of waste must become a habit and recycling and treatment of the MSW is essential. The government needs to initiate large scale action immediately to meet these ends but such action has to be complemented with individual efforts and community goals. Awareness is the key determining factor in winning this battle for survival and environmental sustenance against rapidly piling waste. This must be cultivated in all Indians and particularly in generations to come.