Our fortnightly eco series talks this time of household waste and segregation secrets.
Last week, we explored alarming statistics about the garbage each of us create. Each urban Indian throws out 216 kg of garbage every year, and we are running out of space in landfills.
As responsible citizens, it is our civic duty to manage our own waste. By expecting the city corporation to entirely tackle it, we are merely transferring the problem, which will eventually come back to haunt us by means of poor air quality or contaminated water. The first step to managing our solid waste is to separate what we throw into different categories. This is called source segregation.
The household waste we generate can be classified into three types:
1. Moist waste: Food peels, trimmings, leaves, leftover food that can be composted to create nutritious soil
2. Recyclable waste: Paper, plastic, metal, glass, aluminium foil and cans which if cleaned properly can be re-used.
3. Recoverable waste: Batteries, tubelights, other electronic appliances and parts (where small portions of the input material can be recovered when recycled). However, the process is potentially toxic and hazardous.
Why should we segregate at source?
Through source segregation, we create exceptional value out of waste and solve our environmental problem. We also demonstrate respect for human beings since recycling and composting can reduce the waste generated to less than 10 per cent of our current level of 216 kg per person per year. Further this 10 per cent will not include rotting food waste (which we will compost).
Imagine the change this would bring about in the life of thousands of trash collectors who still manually handle waste.
How do I start source segregation?
Designate two separate bins, one dry and one wet.
Collect all paper, plastic, metal (cans and foil) and glass bottles in the dry bin. The dry bin should of a capacity to contain at least 2 weeks worth of waste generated before they are sent for recycling.
Plastic cannot be recycled, only downcycled. Every time plastic is recycled, it gives a lower grade of plastic. So ideally all plastic covers should be washed well and dried to maximize chances of getting downcycled.
Separate all food scraps into your wet bin. This includes vegetable and fruit peels, seeds, trimmings, and leftover cooked food as well. This organic waste should be composted with a simple do-it-yourself kit, which will be explored in detail in the next article.
Nearly everyone who begins source segregation will be shocked at how much waste is generated in just a couple of weeks. It soon dawns on us, that what we do is not just important, but critical to our city. Soon when you walk down your clean, garbage-free street you can walk tall and proudly say, “I segregate”.