Effective waste management begins with reduction in the generation of waste.
Reduction of waste begins with simple practices like carrying a bag while going shopping or even using a personal mug or plate instead of relying on disposable ones.
Some two decades ago, it was common to carry a bottle of water when one went out. Today we choose to buy a bottle of mineral water whenever we travel. Cafeteria’s in corporate offices and institutions serve coffee in disposable cups. Similarly disposable cups are placed near water dispensers. All of this results in the generation of large volumes of paper and plastic waste.
Theoretically most of this waste can be recycled. Unfortunately in reality much of this waste ends up in landfills rather than at recycling units. Also considering various economic, environmental and health aspects, it is prudent to reduce consumption of disposable items rather than recycle them.
The statistics are alarming. A corporate house with a 1000 employees generates as much as 15kgs of paper waste everyday. Much of this waste is in the form of paper cups and plates. Over a year this would mean around 3.6 tonnes of waste.
Reduction of 15kgs of waste a day could mean saving up to 52kgs of CO2 equivalent emissions (corresponding to driving a standard car for about 520kms.)
A study conducted in Mumbai in 2007 found that 25,03,334 virgin PET bottles were used for packaging carbonated soft drinks every month. Hotels in the city used 7.5kgs of plastic bottles a day, airlines 70.25kgs a day and caterers 11.75kgs a day. The volume of waste generated is only increasing every year.
Dumped in landfills, this plastic waste does not bio-degrade, it only photo-degrades. This means that the plastics break down into smaller fragments over time. These fragments in turn absorb toxins that pollute our waterways, contaminate our soil, and sicken animals (which we then eat).
Making a conscious effort to invest in reusable bags, containers, bottles, mugs and plates and in using them regularly can significantly reduce the volume of waste we generate on a daily basis. It is likely to be a cost-effective investment that is also a sustainable environment friendly one.