Better Waste Management for a Better Living

Anil Gupta

Waste Disposal Practices.

There are eight major groups of waste management methods, each of them divided into numerous categories.

These groups include:

  1. source reduction and reuse,

  2. animal feeding,

  3. recycling,

  4. composting,

  5. fermentation,

  6. landfills,

  7. incineration and

  8. land application.

How is solid waste being managed in developed cities with special reference to NCR? Issues in Current Methods of solid waste disposal and management are as below:

  1. Source Reduction: Much has been spoken about at various national level forums but the concerned central ministry has no action plan on this. In the last 5-10 years alone the per capita generation of MSW has increased from 400 gms to 650 gms per man per day. With changing lifestyles it is on an ever-increasing path, with resorting to more packed daily groceries and gadgets. This figure pertains to only Municipal Solid Waste Generation and does not include Construction & Demolition Waste which today on average is 150 gms/man/day and is ever-increasing, mostly coming from construction, demolition, renovation activities.

Use cloth bags instead of plastic. This small measure will greatly reduce the amount of waste you bring into your house. No matter where you're shopping, you can bring your own reusable cloth bags instead of accepting plastic bags from the store. Plan ahead by purchasing several reusable bags and storing them where you won't forget to bring them along next time you go shopping, like in your kitchen or in the trunk of your car

Reuse containers. Durable containers can be reused a number of times before they need to go out with the garbage or recycling. Bottles, boxes and bags can all serve a second purpose if you know how to use them.[11]

    • Use paper bags to hold recyclables, if you don't have a bin. You can also use them to fashion book protectors - a flashback to grade school days.

    • Reuse paper by printing on both sides, or letting your children draw on the back of the used paper.

    • Use food-grade glass containers (that didn't previously contain anything toxic) to store dry goods and leftovers.

    • Plastic containers are fine to use for storage, but be careful about reusing them too many times to store food. Plastic, even if it is food-grade plastic, can eventually break down and start leaching chemicals into the food.

Buy food that has less packaging. If you tend to buy food that comes in boxes wrapped in plastic with individually-wrapped serving sizes inside, you're probably producing more waste than you want to. Look for ways to buy food with minimal packaging, especially plastic packaging, and you'll see your daily mound of garbage turn into a tiny hill.

  1. Segregation of waste: In foreign countries, waste is segregated in to 4-7 categories by the generator himself or else he is penalized. In India in most cities except Indore, Bhopal and a few others, segregation at source is seldom resorted to making collection and downstream processing by waste collection agencies difficult. Penalties under MSW 2016 rules are not being levied. Further, to leave it to the rag pickers to do manual segregation is perhaps inhuman and unscientific.

  2. Open burning: Most solid waste generated by unauthorized colonies in far-flung areas and green/dry waste from parks, is frequently and regularly burnt by nearby residents or even sometimes by the municipal karamcharis.

  3. Dumping into the water bodies : Most water bodies around residential areas which were a source of drinking water and good sources for groundwater percolation, are vanishing at a very fast pace. Frequently waste is dumped as filling material for illegal encroachments not just in far-flung areas but also densely populated areas as well. Examples are Tughlakabad fort area, Jamuna pushta, New Zakirnagar, Okhla etc. Ground water recharge even along the Jamuna has been affected.

  4. Sanitary Landfills: The current landfills have outlived their life & capacity. Land for dumping additional quantities of waste is not available for a hundred kilometres or so. Attempts to find new sites have failed due to resistance of nearby by towns/villages. Moreover dozens of committees have been formed in last 2 decades, which have visited, suggested remedial measures but indiscriminate/ unplanned/unscientific dumping of waste continues in the existing landfills, and most of the polluting gases as well as hundreds of tons of leachates are being allowed (untreated) to pollute groundwater even as of today, affecting villages, residents of up to 5-7 kms of such sites.

The focus of all landfill management has been to spend crores of rupees to cover it up or reduce its height. Nothing is done to tackle the polluting gases or groundwater contaminating leachate resulting from these landfills.

  1. Incineration: With increasing per capita generation of waste due to lifestyle change, and no availability of land for miles and miles of urban habitation, waste has to be burnt and remains single largest / best solution. However, Waste to Energy Plans have not been very successful so far due to problems associated with quality of waste (percentage of combustible in the waste mix) as it continues to have as much as 20-30% non-combustible material in the form of C & D waste or earthen road sweeping material as contamination. City authorities have not been able to control, identify, the Construction Demolition waste generation and dumping and it invariably is dumped by generators along with the normal waste, reducing its potential to be used for power generation or for composting.

  2. Composting: Waste disposal in gated societies to be streamlined and as per Plan of Action it is confirmed that a compliance drive will soon start in the gated communities. “All gated communities with more than 5,000 sq m area need to segregate recyclable and non-recyclable waste, and then convert their soft organic waste into compost. Composting is a natural process which God has ensured and it converts all organic material in our waste to compost automatically in 90-120 days utilizing ambient temperature, air and available bacteria. By use of accelerators it is possible to do it in say 45-60 days but the process remains long, arduous and cumbersome. It also requires pits/stacks of waste to be there for those many days, which makes it impossible to do in existing habitats and colonies. Some scientists have made it mandatory in MSW 2016 rules for large generators (more than 100Kgs/day of waste- largely offices, restaurants, hotels) without thinking about practicality. It is unscientific, uneconomic and generators normally resort to unfair means to bypass the rules. The same remains true for gated colonies who even if they want to, cannot convert their open spaces to treat rotting waste in various stages just to comply with MSW 2016 rules.

Making your own compost is an option if possible with green/wet waste that you are generating.

Save your food scraps and yard cuttings from the trash. Food scraps and yard cuttings don't need to be thrown out. Instead, you can compost them and turn them into rich, nutritious soil that can be used to nourish your garden - or donated to someone else who will be able to use it for theirs. There are many ways to compost; some compost mixtures allow for items like meat and dairy to be included, while others are strictly for fruit and vegetable scraps. To start a basic compost pile, save these items:

  • Greenitems, which break down quickly, like raw vegetable peelings, coffee grounds, tea bags, grass cuttings, leaves[15]

  • Brownitems, which break down slowly, like sticks and branches, paper, cardboard, eggshells, sawdust[1

Create a compost site. Select an area in a sunny or partially shaded spot in your yard for your compost site. Ideally, you'll compost directly over dirt or grass, but if you don't have a large yard area, you can compost on a concrete patio.[17] Here are a few different ways you can structure your compost site:

  • Make a compost pile. This is the simplest way to compost. All you have to do is make a pile in your yard. It should be located well away from your house, since composting sometimes attracts mice and insects.

  • Make a compost box. You can construct a box made to the exact dimensions that suit your needs using old pallets.

  • Buy a compost bin. They're available at most home and garden stores, and come in a variety of different shapes and sizes

Choose to make either a cold or hot compost heap. Making a cold heap requires less effort, but it takes longer for the compost to be ready. Making a hot heap requires a little work, but you'll have compost in as little as 6 - 8 weeks. Here's the difference:

  • To make a cool compost heap, fill your bin with a few inches of both green and brown materials. Keep piling more in whenever you need to get rid of food scraps or toilet paper rolls. When the bin is full, leave it to compost. It may take up to a year to full compost, but you can use the compost forming at the bottom of the bin as needed.

  • To make a hot compost heap, mix your green and brown materials well, and fill your bin all the way up (or heap up a big pile). It will warm up and get hot to the touch; when this happens, stir it up, and it will cool. When it heats up again a few days or weeks later, stir it up again. Keep doing this until it stops heating up after you stir; then let it rest to finish composting.

  1. Hazardous Waste: Dispose of trash and hazardous waste properly

There are some household items that just can't be recycled or reused. These items have to be thrown out with the trash or disposed of at a hazardous waste facility. Try to reduce your consumption of the following items, and when you do use them, dispose of them according to your city's laws:

  • Batteries

  • Paint

  • TVs, computers, and other electronics

  • Light bulbs


(This article appeared in the compendium published to coincide with the 7th National Conference of RWAs held on November 16-17, 2019, at New Delhi.)

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