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Creating A Circular Economy For Waste
Talking on waste, the panel touched upon reusing and recycling in a broader context and put forth ground-level actions that can be adopted to curb the growing piles at landfills and instill a sense of responsibility regarding our medical, e-waste, food and plastic waste.
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The panel deliberated pressing solutions to different kinds of wastes and pushed for measures such as fines imposed on food wastage and the formalisation of the informal waste collectors
While there might be a growing level of awareness and understanding of waste among the urban population, waste management isn’t given its due recognition at scale considering the detrimental impact it has on the planet. Talking on waste, the panel touched upon reusing and recycling in a broader context and put forth ground-level actions that can be adopted to curb the growing piles at landfills and instill a sense of responsibility regarding our medical, e-waste, food and plastic waste.
As the World and India especially, wrestles the pandemic on all fours, we often forget that this underlies the growing bio-medical waste. A 600% increase in bio-medical waste was observed in the past year during the first wave of the pandemic. Explaining how regulatory bodies and government bodies have reacted to pandemic medical waste, Sunil Pandey, Director and senior fellow of Waste management at TERI elucidated, “ISWA (International Solid Waste Association) issued guidelines saying, waste management is an essential service and waste not sent to sorting and disposal centres would cause another problem. After deliberating with 100 global cities, it was decided that once containment areas are identified, any waste originating from the area should be treated as covid waste and must be taken to bio-medical facilities and incinerators. The Central Pollution Control Board also issued guidelines stating how to decontaminate areas and treat covid waste. At an individual level, mask and used gloves should be cut to deter reuse.”
Delving into individual food waste, measures like small portions at restaurants and fines for wasting food were suggested to deter reprehensible behaviour. Individuals must be encouraged to be conscious of the quantity of food prepared at home and practice composting. Commenting on the growing electronic waste that accompanies the latest fad, the panel demarcated ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ and highlighted how individuals should try to follow the route of waste once it leaves their homes to understand the problem better.
As more awareness and waste management start-ups rise, local bodies must be encouraged to work with them, explained Sanchita Jindal, the former advisor for the Ministry of environment and climate change, Government of India. She added how waste collectors must be mobilized with the help of the new start-ups and encouraged to practice a complete recycling chain.
She also shared how the MD of UNEP had remarked that the level of waste consumption witnessed at present would require 3 planets to house humanity and their waste by 2050. She believes the approach to waste depends on individual action and consumption levels and that it should be channelized in a circular economy. “Circular economy is where we look at waste circularly. We use resources from nature, make products and keep them in the loop for as long as we can. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle all fall under this. These concepts used to be inculcated in our society and now we have become a wasteful society so to remedy that we need to look at using products for as long as we can.”