Waste management (or waste disposal) includes the activities and actions required to manage waste from its inception to its final disposal. Waste can be solid, liquid, or gaseous and each type has different methods of disposal and management. Waste management deals with all types of waste, including industrial, biological, and household. In some cases, waste can pose a threat to human health. Throughout most of history, the amount of waste generated by humans was insignificant due to low levels of population density and exploitation of natural resources. Common waste produced during pre-modern times was mainly ashes and human biodegradable waste, and these were released back into the ground locally, with minimum environmental impact. Tools made out of wood or metal were generally reused or passed down through the generations. Waste management practices are not uniform among countries (developed and developing nations); regions (urban and rural areas), and residential and industrial sectors can all take different approaches.

                 

The 3R Principle

REDUCE

REUSE

RECYCLE

The waste hierarchy refers to the “3 Rs” Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, which classifies waste management strategies according to their desirability in terms of waste minimization. The waste hierarchy is the cornerstone of most waste minimization strategies. The aim of the waste hierarchy is to extract the maximum practical benefits from products and to generate the minimum amount of end waste; see resource recovery.

                 

Waste Management In India

With rapid urbanization, the country is facing massive waste management challenges. Over 377 million urban people live in 7,935 towns and cities and generate 62 million tonnes of municipal solid waste per annum. Only 43 million tonnes (MT) of the waste is collected, 11.9 MT is treated and 31 MT is dumped in landfill sites. Solid Waste Management (SWM) is one of the basic essential services provided by municipal authorities in the country to keep urban centers clean. However, almost all municipal authorities deposit solid waste at a dump yard within or outside the city haphazardly. Experts believe that India is following a flawed system of waste disposal and management. The key to efficient waste management is to ensure proper segregation of waste at the source and to ensure that the waste goes through different streams of recycling and resource recovery. Then reduced final residue is then deposited scientifically in sanitary landfills. Sanitary landfills are the ultimate means of disposal for unutilized municipal solid waste from waste processing facilities and other types of inorganic waste that cannot be reused or recycled. A major limitation of this method is the costly transportation of MSW to faraway landfill sites.

                 

Can Indian Streets become clean?

So, can Indian streets become clean? Yes, it is possible if Indians start to segregate waste at its source and adopt a decentralized system of composting their biodegradable waste. On the sidelines, informal recycling by waste pickers can be made more organized by training and educating them. This approach will reduce the burden on Indias centralized waste management system which can mostly focus on dealing with the waste that needs sophisticated or large-scale treatment, by ensuring maximum resource extraction from waste, combined with safe disposal of residual waste through waste to energy projects and for properly managed engineered landfills, India can make its streets clean, but a shortage of environmental professionals and qualified engineers can totally spoil the plans and that is why it is important that India builds dedicated waste management colleges and universities which will cater for the rising demand of skilled professionals.

Yes, India needs to spend a lot of money to create an effective waste management infrastructure but a clean India will be able to earn more by attracting more tourists. A clean India will also save more in its public health care and also it will save money by avoiding those city floods which happen in monsoon due to the drains that are chocked by plastic. Moreover, new jobs will be created and people will start looking at waste as an opportunity to create wealth. In relatively small patches, many streets and districts in India are well maintained and clean too, but these success stories are not enough. India needs a lot more of them and it needs them urgently. Furthermore, India shouldnt follow the unethical Western trend of waste dumping in poorer countries. As India continues to rebuild, its citizens should ensure that they avoid reaching the dangerous levels of the average westerner in plastic consumption and waste production because waste reduction is better than any kind of waste management. And Indias traditional wisdom of Aparigraha which is very relevant even today can play a key role in achieving that.

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