After seeing local garbage collection in action, and visiting kabbadiwallas sorting their products, we visited the Jolly Mohalla Wholesale Market – the scale of which has to be seen to be believed. Families have been in business here for 50 years and competition is fierce.
Have you ever wondered what happens to your waste once you throw it out?
Waste is an issue that has fascinated me since I arrived in India about 6 months ago. Although waste is often very visible on the streets here, I had a very limited understanding of how the waste management process worked. Although it may sound a bit odd, I was really curious to find out where my garbage was going. I guess I felt like I couldn’t take any effective action until I had seen it for myself and understood the complexities of the situation.
Waste provides a good hiding spot for local street dog
I started doing some of my own research into the issue and a friend introduced me to a business called Daily Dump, based in Bangalore. Daily Dump sells composting equipment, and also runs a “Trash Trail” tour across the city. So I signed up and arrived at the Daily Dump office early one Saturday morning with 7 other interested citizens. The staff gave us a quickpowerpoint presentation to set the scene:
I was amazed to find out that only 10% of what we currently throw out should be heading to landfill!
Sanitation has long been a critical, but somewhat unfashionable issue in health and rural development, so it is heartening to see the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation putting their substantial resources behind technological change and innovation in this field with their “Reinvent the Toilet” fair.
The minimum requirements for the competition were that the toilets must operate without running water, electricity or a septic system, must not discharge pollutants and should capture energy or other resources. The winning design from the California Institute of Technology certainly fits that bill, as it is a solar-powered toilet that generates hydrogen and electricity.
Rather than viewing plastic products, such as plastic bags and food packaging, as waste, one Bangalore company uses it as a raw material in roads to create polymerised bitumen. This adds a few years of life to the road and reduces the amount of plastic waste sent to landfill.
Starting from today (aptlyWorld Environment Day), I will be running the “Living Green in India” series, where I will share some of the unique challenges of living in an environmentally friendly way in India.
Recently something curious happened at home in our Indian apartment. We had stored all of our used glass and plastic bottles on our balcony, not really sure of what to do with them (given the lack of accessible government recycling facilities). Our housemaid gathered up all of the bottles and then, just as she was leaving, asked me for a letter. Initially I was unsure as to why she needed it, but I realised that she wanted a note from us stating that we had given her the bottles (to prove to security at our complex that she hadn’t stolen them). Clearly the bottles were valuable and she could get some money from selling them.
This situation got me thinking about the whole waste management and recycling sector in India. To me, at least, India feels like a country slowly splitting at the seams.Waste is definitely much more visible and hard to ignore than back home in Australia. In Australia you put out your rubbish bins and just forget about it…blissfully unaware of where it goes or what happens to it! I guess at least in India I am more aware of its presence and that challenges me to recycle and minimise my waste where possible.