Dreaming of the day when we don’t have to segregate waste!

Unsegregated waste is something which cannot be processed 100% which would be a deadly cocktail that will act as slow poison for environment. File pic.

A few days ago, I came back from the morning run to my newspaper and breakfast. What I read on the first page made me spill my bowl of sambhar all over the supplement. Our elected representatives – MPs, MLAs and corporators were back from a junket to Salem where they saw a plant that can process mixed waste.

I personally like folks in position of power traveling as it opens the mind, so have no problems with junkets. What interested me was that our Mayor was quoted as saying that a similar plant is already in the works and within a year will start accepting mixed waste in Bangalore.

I did find his extortion to still segregate wasteful – why segregate if it is going to a plant that will anyway segregate and government is spending crores on it. I too am perpetually short of time though my two kids will miss the ‘guess-the-right-bin’ game that we play all the time.  Along with tons of other such citizen activists, I have been spending almost 50% of my spare time getting waste segregation going in my building, and now in my neighbourhood. I could now just drop all this and start watching Big Boss and maybe a couple of movies.

Alas, I was woken up from my day dream as my daughter wanted to know which bin to drop my soaked newspaper. Having read and discussed waste management issues ad nauseum with fellow citizens, following questions came to my mind:

  1. If all newspaper and pizza boxes come soaked in dal and sambhar, then their 70% value is destroyed.
  2. If a battery and lead-containing toys are sitting inside the food waste and later that food waste is composted, I would be concerned about the food chain getting contaminated.
  3. Would the energy expended for taking out the waste out of a small medicine glass bottle make it an environmentally more harmful solution?
  4. Add to this the industrial, medical and sanitary waste, the cocktail will be deadly.

With all due respect, I think the better solutions are emerging from concerned citizens. I went to Bhoomi festival on October 2 and was truly inspired by a few folks there.  Here are simple suggestions they had for us citizens:

  1. Refuse single use plastic – especially bottled water and plastic bags
  2. Use steel or any other reusable material plates, glasses etc instead of using single use plastic, thermocol or paper ones.
  3. Use rechargeable batteries
  4. Use cloth hankies instead of tissues.
  5. Use eco-friendly shecup or reusable sanitary pads
  6. Create a free market in your neighbourhood where folks can give and take stuff they don’t want or stuff they need – for free.
  7. And of course, segregate, segregate, segregate.

My message to our elected representatives is that we citizens do want to do the right thing for our environment. The problem currently is at our gates literally where the segregated waste is mixed often. Help us to help you. Together we can clean the city.

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  1. Citizens should also start composting in-house so less wet waste has to be processed far from where it is generated.

  2. The issue here is not whether segregation at source is a good thing or not. It is, unquestionably. The question is : What to do about the vast quantity of stuff that is not segregated ? There is no point pretending that we are going to reach compliance standards that no other community anywhere in the world has ever reached. Not going to happen. What we need to do is to expand the reach of segregation at source but actively plan also for disposal solutions for non-segregated waste. We must also refuse to allow a handful of people to dictate vetoes on otherwise sensible solutions. Bangalore’s waste problems need an “all of the above” approach. Let us remember the objective here — it is to manage waste. Segregation is a means to an end. Not the end in itself.

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