Not many years ago, people returning from the US or England would relate shocking stories of how people there threw away everything—from TVs to beautiful containers to cars to old clothes. And we used to pride ourselves that in India, we re-cycled and re-used everything. Horlicks bottles were used to store pickles or dals. Bournvita tins became containers for masala powders. Bed sheets became pillow covers, which became shopping bags.
But now, ‘we’ are ‘them’!
Have you looked into your garbage bin recently? Have you noted how quickly it fills up? With changing lifestyles, we are buying more and more, and throwing away more and more. Today, In metro cities in India, an individual produces an average of 0.8 kg/ waste/ person daily.
India produces about 65 m tonnes of urban waste annually, out of which 5.6m tonnes consist of plastic waste, 0.17m constitute of biomedical waste, 7.90m tonnes constitute hazardous waste while 15 lakh ton is e-waste.
You may not want to do the exercise of researching the contents of your dustbin, so here are some facts. On the average, garbage is made up of 35% organic material, 30% paper, 12% construction related wastes, 9% plastics, 6% glass, 3% metal, and then miscellaneous.
The problem with garbage is that though you may throw it ‘away’, there is really no ‘away’! It is out of your house, but on the street. It is off the street but in a dumper. It is out of the dumper, but in a landfill. And at each stage, there are problems.
Just to understand what the problem is, just looks at the facts and figures below.
- Banana peel – 3 to 4 weeks
- Paper bag — 1 month
- Cotton rag — 5 months
- Wool sock — 1 year
- Cigarette butt — 2 to 5 years
- Leather shoe — 40 to 50 years
- Rubber sole (of the shoe) — 50 to 80 years
- Aluminum can (soft drink can) — 200 to 500 years
- Plastic jug — 1 million years
- Styrofoam cup – unknown–forever?
- glass bottle – unknown–forever?
So what can we do as individuals? The mantra is ‘Reduce, re-use, recycle’.
Don’t create waste in the first place! Buy only what you need. Use all that you buy. Avoid heavily packaged products. Avoid disposable items like paper plates and plastic spoons. Buy the largest size package for those items that you use often.
Reuse items – use them over and over until they are completely worn out. Borrow or share items you don’t use very often. Donate unwanted items. Repair items, instead of throwing away and buying new. Refill bottles. Plastic bags can be used for many times over. Use your imagination, not the trash can!
Recycle means taking something old and making it into something new. Old newspapers, plastic bottles, glass bottles and jars, aluminum and steel cans can all be recycled. Sell these to the ‘kabadi wallah’. Not only does it keep items out of the landfill, recycling conserves natural resources. For example, making newspaper out of old newspaper saves a valuable natural resource – trees.
And compost, compost, compost!
Think about it and see if you want to make these your New Year Resolutions!