The current mismanagement of the waste and our nonchalant attitude has started raising serious health and sanitation issues like weaker immune systems, breathing problems, bacterial infections, elevated cardiovascular risk, and other infections. Breeding of mosquitoes has become easier and vector borne diseases like dengue and malaria have become rampant. Moreover, the decomposition of organic waste with hazardous waste contaminates soil and water ultimately finding its way into our food chain.
CPCB report (2016) says that the metropolitan cities generate 10.1 Million tonnes of waste every year, with the capital city Delhi generating 3.3 million tonnes of waste per year.
Moreover, it is alarming, that 43 million tonnes of only solid waste are collected annually of which 11.9 million tonnes (22-28%) is treated and the rest 78-72% is dumped in the landfills. However, this gives us idea only about the solid waste.
Experts observe that as much as 60% of the waste generated can be turned into compost and 20% has the potential to be recycled and only 20% should reach the landfills (IIT K report). As much as 10,000 tonnes of waste is dumped in the landfills every single day. The dumped garbage is much beyond the holding capacity of the landfills. Hardly anybody realizes that this will also require 1240 hectares of the available land per year – pressurizing the already stressed land resources.
Many technologies or bio-engineered hacks have been developed by innovators, entrepreneurs etc. around the world. These hacks not only reduce the cost of dumping waste, but many of these hacks have the element of recycling the products and generate wealth exponentially.
- Solid waste
The fuel rates in India are increasing day by day. In November 2017, Non-subsidised LPG cost Rs 742 per bottle. Subsidised LPG price was increased by Rs 4.50 per 14.2 kg cylinder, at Rs 495.69. Moreover, subsidised LPG cylinder has been capped at one cylinder per family per month. However, on an average, every family requires at least two cylinders a month and the consumption increases during the winter months. It can be said that at the least every year a family is spending Rs. 14856 with subsidy and Rs. 17808 without subsidy.
Instead of spending the money on the LPG cylinders, what if we can save it or produce fuel at home – generating wealth and resources.
HomeBiogas is one of the technologies, which is capable of transforming organic waste into clean cooking gas at home. Affordability and portable design are the two reasons that make them attractive even for a poor household. It has the capability to convert kitchen leftovers into 3 hours of cooking per day.
EEB is another community based solid waste to fuel mechanism. Organic waste, which makes its way to the dump yards, finds huge potential in this technology for further utilization. The local community can provide agricultural by-products like corn straw, animal waste, kitchen waste into these EEBs to produce fuel in large quantities.
- Liquid waste
The following table provides a brief image on the various methods that we use to manage the liquid waste generated.
A conventional leach pit costs every household a staggering fee of Rs. 3000-15,000. Moreover, the smell from the pit is unbearable and it releases harmful gases to the environment. Not only is this reducing the wealth of a family but is also degrading the environment and consequently the health of the family as the waste from the leach pit might eventually seep into the ground water aquifers.
[EVOLVE]Engineering is creating wetlands to solve this problem. A wetland makes use of phytoremediation process – using plants, gravel etc. to clean up the environment. This simple bio-hack uses no electricity, chemicals and is very cheap. Easy to learn and implement is can be implemented in lakes, ponds, rivers and even nallahs. They have demonstrated the conversion of blue-green algae ridden water into potable water. Their user-friendly wetland creation is currently being implemented in New Delhi, the most polluted city of India.
Electronic waste or e-waste is described as the discarded electrical or electronics devices. If we ponder upon the electronic devices we purchase every year, we will find that we spend at least Rs. 7000 on phone; Rs. 20,000 on laptops, Rs. 10,000 on washing machine etc. and the list goes on. If added up it comes to at least an amount of Rs. 60,000 every year. However, we do not think twice before discarding it. We do not consider that discarding them unmindfully is not only harming the environment with the released toxicity but is also tugging at our pockets.
What if we were paid back for the dumped e-waste? As per the Solid Waste Management Rules 2016, the manufacturer has a responsibility towards the electronic goods produced and he can take them back.
A mechanism should be devised and put into place by the government, which will help in the establishment of reverse e-waste ATMs. Cash can be provided to those who provide the discarded electronics to the reverse e-waste ATMs.
- Plastic waste
Hardly do we realize how much pollution we bring to the earth with the usage of plastic bags. There are 52 types of plastics recognised and each one has different mechanism of recycling and processing. The price we pay, the earth pays with the usage of plastic is immeasurable.
Conserve Organization realized this fact very early and devised their own method of recycling and reusing plastic. They started collecting waste from their neighbourhoods and started upcycling the plastic bags into sheets of plastic that were reinvented as fashion accessories. They named this material Handmade Recycled Plastic. Not only has it become a livelihood generation mechanism for many but has provided a new mechanism for reuse of plastic waste.
The waste we generate and the waste we discard hold huge potential for wealth creation not only for us but also for the environment and everyone around us. With Swachh Bharat Abhiyan many have become aware about the importance of cleanliness and the sustainable development. However, we have to become more proactive and aware about out rights and duties to become better and wealthy citizens.