Thursday, September 23, 2010

Embracing Environment Level Challenges

Waste Management: When Waste Is Not A Waste

Today every responsible citizen in any country empathises with the waste that is getting wasted and the harmful effect that it has on our environment and health, when left unattended. Every conscious soul today is aware of the un-managed waste that is heaped away in many landfills. But most often people do not how to manage the waste. Even the educated class finds it difficult to contemplate and reflect on how the waste that they generate can be curbed and what to do with that which is generated - how to avoid landfills? Needless to say the waste lying around is unhygeinic and therefore, a plausible cause for epidemic diseases.

There are many kinds of waste classified based on their characteristics. For example we have e-waste coming out of increased usage of digitalised gadgets in our urban lifestyles; medical waste coming from hospitals and clinics; plastics coming out of increased consumption of cold beverages, bottled-water and packed food/groceries and wet organic waste coming from household and restraunts, hotels and small eateries. Each of these type of waste need specific attention for managing them.

If you talk about just the household waste, studies indicate that, in India, on an average, each person in urban areas produces half a kilogram of garbage each day. Ten percent of Indians live in urban areas. This calculates to more than 20 million tonnes of garbage each year in cities alone! A very natural way of avoiding landfills with our household waste [which is usually biodegradable], is the natural method of composting, vermi-composting and anaerobic digestion. Composting is easy and an environmental friendly solution for the wet, organic, biodegradable household waste. It is economically viable too.

The Green Revolution left over 11.6 million hectares of low-productivity, nutrient-depleted soils ruined by unbalanced and excessive use of synthetic fertilisers and lack of organic manure or micronutrients. City compost can fill this need and solve both the problems of barren land and organic nutrient shortages estimated at six million tons a year. India’s 35 largest cities alone can provide 5.7 million tonnes a year of organic manure if their biodegradable waste is composted and returned to the soil. Integrated plant nutrient management, using city compost along with synthetic fertilisers, can generate enormous national savings as well as cleaning urban India. There is scarcely any other national programme which can bring such huge benefits to both urban and rural sectors.

Quite a few entrepreneurs have already started embracing this environmental challenge and have started organizations working towards managing different types of wastes. One such entrepreneur is Poonam Bir Kasturi, founder of DailyDump, who is spreading the awareness of managing your household waste by composting. DailyDump [www.dailydump.org] educates about composting and sells products which are useful for composting in houses and apartments. Poonam has very delligently designed her composting products by integrating factors like convenience, environment friendliness, no electrical or battery operated add-ons and a blend with the Indian ethnicity and culture.

For developing countries, recycling of waste is the most economically viable option available both in terms of employment generation for the urban poor with no skills and investment. Recycling is really helpful for managing the increasing plastic waste in our cities. Plastic waste is very environment un-friendly and is hazardous for our flora and fauna also. So is the case with e-waste. It is necessary to dispose off the electronic waste properly and scientifically as some of these wastes [like used batteries], have high lead content, which can easily get mixed in soil and water.

If you mull over the above situation, you shall see that waste management may prove to be a lucrative and viable entrepreneurial opportunity area. Next week, I am going to publish my interview with Poonam Bir Kasturi - a woman of strong character and depth, who is determined to make a mark! Stay tuned.

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