I love going to my cousin’s house. She lives in a part of Hyderabad that is not just lovely, but clean, quiet and green. One hot Sunday afternoon, I find myself at a family gathering in her home. While making a pitcher of lemonade, I look around for the trash bin to dump the peeled lemons.
“Is this your wet-waste?” I ask,
“Yes” she replies.
“So…… where…. is your dry-waste?” I inquire.
“We don’t have one” she says.
“Why not?” I ask.
“You don’t litter! Do you?” I ask cheekily.
“Of course not!!!” she answers angrily. “I don’t use plastic bags either!!!”
“So, why won’t you separate your waste?” I ask.
“I’ve tried! The household-staff and other members of the family find it complicated and inevitably go back to their old ways” she mutters. “And I believe that some trash collectors put it all together anyway.”
“I hear you. It was really hard implementing a separation-system in my household too. And it’s still a work in progress….” I say.
“So, how did you convince your staff, children and elders” she asks.
And, I tell her,
“ 1 – I found that removing many of the trash bins around the house really helped. This influenced the family members to walk to the main trash areas (kitchen and utility) to throw their trash. And then, I placed two instead of one trash can in these areas. I also marked them Wet and Dry. Over a short period of time, everyone in our household started taking a moment to find the right bin, and
2 – I stopped handing over the dry-waste to the Municipality.”
“Huh! What do you do with them?” she asks.
“Sell it to a Kabadiwala! In other words, recycle!!!” I state.
“Now, where will I find a Kabadiwala?” she utters.
“Kabadiwalas are the people who buy your old newspapers! They also take plastic, metal, glass and e-waste” I explain. “Alternately, you can even organize a pick-up drive on behalf of your residential community with online Kabadiwalas such as Toters.in.“
“Ok!!! Why don’t you help me educate my household this afternoon!” she suggests.
So, I accept the challenge and gather a crowd.
I : What is our daily-trash made of?
1) Wet-waste: Kitchen waste which is organic compostable/bio-degradable material.
2) Dry-waste: Plastic, metal, glass, paper and e-waste.
3) Sanitory and Hazardous waste- Sanitory-waste of any kind and Hazardous-waste such as needles, paints, construction debris, broken glass, cleaning agents, pesticides, etc.
Cousin : Each type of waste is dissimilar in nature. Therefore, it needs to be disposed differently. It’s like cooking!!! Rice, vegetables, meat, lentils, etc., cook differently. Similarly, each type of trash decomposes differently. And, so they have to be separated.
I : But, when you mix all of the above and bury them together, the decaying process is disturbed. It ends up producing an unhygienic toxic substance/liquid called leachate, which infiltrates the ground water, rivers and lakes. It also produces toxic carbon-mono-oxide and methane that penetrate the air. Thus, making our water and air poisonous!
I see a lot of heads nodding. I feel good that we’re getting through.
Then, a wise uncle says, “Segregating waste is compulsory. There is absolutely no argument there. But I don’t think that alone can solve Hyderabad’s colossal trash problem.”
Everyone looks at him with interest.
Uncle : Well, we also need to Reduce waste!
1) We have no space for trash in our city. Our current Landfill which actually just works as a dumping (leachate producing) ground is only 300 acres in size. About 3.5 million Kilograms of trash is transported here every day. And that does not include the trash dumps across the city, and
2) Not all products that you sell to the Kabadiwala can actually be recycled or reused.
Cousin : Wow! Hyderabad is really in trouble, isn’t it? I wonder what other countries do!
Uncle : Sweden is a great example. Its population is just a little more than that of Hyderabad’s (approximately 10 million vs 9.5 million). But, they do have a lot more land area. Their population density is 22 people per square km vs Hyderabad’s 14,600 people per square km.
And here is the unexpected shocker: Sweden produces about 3 times as much garbage as that of Hyderabad.
Yes!!! But, they follow strict waste-separation etiquette! Less than 1% (1.2 Lakh kgs vs our 35 Lakh kgs) goes to the Landfill every day. Half of their remaining 99% is recycled and other half incinerated (burnt) and converted into power. In fact, its waste-to-energy program allows it to import waste from neighboring countries to use as fuel for its energy requirements.
I : That is fascinating!
Uncle : Sweden has pioneered a Trash revolution for sure. But, Madukarai, a small village in South India has done wonders too simply by following a separation system.
I : Hyderabad is a great city with amazing potential for the future. If we can just spread awareness and live by example, we should be able to change the health of our environment.
Cousin : True! But how do I reduce my trash? The idea seems intimidating.
Uncle : It’s not too hard. It’s actually quite liberating! People across the world have accomplished zero-waste ways of life. There are 5 basic rules per Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste Home ideas.
1) Refuse everything you don’t need or things you are going to throw. Basically, you stop unnecessary-trash from getting into your house in the first place.
2) Reduce what you need and use.
3) Reuse by using reusables (instead of disposables).
4) Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce or reuse.
5) And finally, Rot (compost) all wet-waste.
I : So, are you saying that you don’t produce any waste?
Uncle : No! But I try to follow these 5 rules and my family’s trash production is visibly decreasing every day.
I : Incredible! I suppose being aware is the first step.
Uncle : Absolutely! And that itself will make a huge difference.
Let’s start today! Reduce and Separate!