Open Burning of Household Waste – What can be done?

There is a real problem, out here!! Perhaps, its effect is accentuated by certain weather patterns. It is December, 2018 in Trivandrum, Kerala, India.

I used to be enamored by the view I would have from our 13th floor flat balcony. The breezed would also be amazing for months at a stretch…

And then, this period of lull came, when I felt it difficult to breathe in fresh air, as it smelled heavily of smoke and plastic. To worsen the impact, was the continuous blanket of haze, which engulfed all that was beautiful giving an ominous, dull feel.

I felt as if this is the end of all that was good…I would keep the doors and windows of our house shut, and worry for my kids’ and husband’s health. I would also worry what would my aged mother breathe in, if I call her to my place?

However, today is new day…the weather has improved…It seems to be a fresh day, with the beautiful colors of nature, again showing from my house’s balcony.

IMG20181223114053So what was that phase, of 15 to 20 days? It was like a bad dream…

Ok, I still did not mention where from the smoke and plastic smell came? There is a widespread practice of open burning of household waste in areas in and around of Trivandrum. This is especially true for stand alone houses.

So, house after house, had a burning pile of waste , which of course, included plastic and all components of domestic waste. The fumes, would make air heavy with smoke and plastic smell. And with no breeze in the atmosphere to disperse the fumes, the resulting haze pervaded like ‘doom.’

My question here is – are we human beings, with our good minds, just around here, to be a part of the problem, rather than solution?

Do we find it ok to pollute the air to the extent, it feels terrible to breathe it in?

If it is our pollution, who will do the clean up…? Nature?

If we do not get our act straight, then we will have to keep our windows and doors shut and cover our noses with masks, till Mother Nature sends some breeze to clear our pollution…

IMG20181216181202How can we get  our act straight?

  1. Tell the Municipal governing body or Village Panchayat to get waste collected from door-to-door on a daily basis.
  2. Again, tell these bodies to incentivize waste generators to separate plastics as well as recyclables at the source level, and finally to arrange for its regular collection and scientific disposal.
  3. Further, there is a need to educate one and ll to generate less waste, especially that from single-use plastics and products.

It is high time this is done…! While this is being done, lets do our bit and reduce our contribution of waste, especially the non-biodegradable waste.

Thanks for reading.!

 

 

Air Pollution in Trivandrum – Issues and Solutions

What is air pollution?

“Air pollution consists of chemicals or particles in the air that can harm the health of humans, animals, and plants.” (National Geographic)]

Trivandrum’s Air Quality Index for November 7, 2018 is 134. (AQICN.org)

How is it harmful?

Apart from the obvious breathing issues it can cause, including bronchitis, “conditions such as asthma, heart disease, and lung disease can be made worse by exposure to air pollution”; further, it can cause “long-term damage to people’s nerves, brain, kidneys, liver, and other organs.”

Having observed the issue keenly during my stay in this city, I have identified three main sources of localized air pollution :

  1. Open burning of waste
  2. Dust from unkempt and broken roads and muddy lanes
  3. Exhaust fumes from diesel trucks, carriers, buses, and other vehicles.

These three sources, if left unchecked, have tremendous potential to pollute the city to the level people feel uncomfortable walking in the open. This is despite the green cover, that this city, has at present.

Another upcoming source of air pollution is the unmanaged and ever increasing construction activities.

As Kerala is being rebuilt and the state endeavors to retain its natural charm, it is very important for administration and residents to be aware of these dangers.

What are the solutions at hand?

  1. To minimize burning of waste, people need to be made aware of the harms of open burning of waste and be incentivized to separate recyclable waste.
  2. Buyers of recyclable waste needs to be roped in to collect it from the residential and commercial units at regular intervals.
  3. A separate community awareness drive needs to be initiated towards reducing use of one-time plastic.
  4. People need to be educated on composting of wet waste.
  5. Municipal corporation/municipality/village panchayat needs to step in to enforce rules for stopping open burning of waste.
  6. To minimize dust from unkempt roads and muddy lanes, municipal corporation/ municipality/village panchayat need to ensure watering of roads and regular cleaning. At a comprehensive level, scientific planning and construction of roads needs to be undertaken.
  7. To minimize exhaust fumes from diesel trucks, carriers, buses, and other vehicles, regular inspection of vehicles (made possible through yearly or biannual registration check) and imposing fines at the spot by traffic police personnel (or better, a specially deployed “pollution control personnel”) on erring vehicles are possible solutions.
  8. At the government level, all subsidies on diesel should be reduced (except a few sensitive categories like water pumps for farmers) as it is the most polluting fuel. Specially for public carriers, such engines must be designed which are low maintenance, high performing, and least polluting.

All need to work towards it…individuals, private players, administration, and Government.

 

 

Exhibition on Zero waste by Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM, or commonly called BMC), 9-11 September, 2017

Yesterday, I visited the BMC organised exhibition on management of solid waste. The venue, of the exhibition which is on today also, is Samaj Kalyan Kendra, Dahisar East, Mumbai. Through photos and remarks, I wish to give you  a peep into the event. Going by the number of visitors, it could be made out that the ordinary citizen of India is waking up to the need of efficient solid waste management…at last!

 

  • About 15 companies had put up their stalls, to showcase their latest products and technologies related to waste shredding, compacting & composting, and biogas production.
  • Following is the list of companies who participated:
    • Bhor Engineering
    • K.B. Engineering
    • Ferds Engineering
    • Asmita
    • Solwearth Ecotech
    • Sustainable Resources
    • Shree Aastha Mahila Bachat Gat
    • V Kwality Composting
    • ERS
    • Sanjeevani
    • Ecoman Enviro Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
    • Panchtatva Technologists and Services
Products on display

Products on display

  • Products on Display: They were generally in the category of bio-composters, ranging from a basket by Asmita Group, priced at Rs. 350 to the tumbling ones by Mahatech Orgi Compost, priced around 12-23 k for a pair. Then, there were mechanised organic waste composters, with the price range of Rs. 0.4-0.6 Million per machine. Apart from composters, bio-gas digesters, bio-tank, and waste shredders were also on display.
  • Posters on Display:
Posters on Display

Posters on Display

Besides, useful information about composting, like in photos below, was also highlighted.

Collage 2017-09-11 13_15_35

What to compost and what not to?

 

I conclude that I appreciate this initiative, and hope that it brings positive change in the field of Solid Waste Management in Mumbai and India.

Waste Segregation – Need of the hour (World Environment Day, 2017)?

I was searching for inspiration on how I can play my part for the World Environment Day, 2017 (June 5). I could not do much; however, on my visit to Trivandrum, I discovered that the society we stayed in had robust waste segregation measures in place.

Every flat of the society was allotted two garbage bins – a green and a blue one, with lids. Rules regarding waste segregation were posted in the lobby area of each of the building of the society. Wet waste needs to be put in the green bin and the ‘other wastes’ in the blue bin. Clarification was provided regarding ways of disposal of the latter which included a wide range of household waste.

Among the rules was a critical line – the non-segregated waste will ‘NOT’ be picked up by the door-to-door waste collection personnel.

I was impressed with the efficacy of the system.

Further, I decide to see what happens to the segregated waste. I was further surprised that the society complex had an in-built waste treatment system in place. I was told that while the food waste is composted, the other waste (that which cannot be recycled) is incinerated. There was a sewage treatment plant as well, all built in the basement of the building. (See the pictures below) The use of incinerator for combustion of household waste can be debated; however, recycling is definitely a safe, sustainable option.

The bottom line is that pro-active, futuristic buildings have already starting doing their bit. Waste here is treated as a ‘resource’ as food waste generates manure for the up-keeping of the park area of the building. Further, the  recyclable waste fetches some revenue; and this way, the entire bulk of household waste is prevented from becoming an eye-sore in some part of the city, as well as a social and environmental nuisance (remember, gases from waste decomposition in landfills contribute to the dangerous ‘climate change’).

The Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan in India has already made ‘Waste Segregation’ a theme for this year’s World Environment Day. The real difference will be when this is done in every household and every building in our country. and our world..!

…Wishing a very happy and inspiring ‘World Environment Day’ to all!

 

 

Check out @UNFCCC’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/UNFCCC/status/1071736221922021377?s=09

Weekend activity – Visit to Green Congress Event, Thiruvananthapuram

I and my group mates of 3L Club, Technopark, Thiruvananthapuram visited the event on December 1, 2018.

Date: December 1 & 2, 2018

Venue: SMV High School, Thiruvananthapuram

Participants : About 90 students and other people from flood-affected (2018 floods) districts of Kerala

Theme: Rebuilding Kerala

Concept: Putting together of experiences of students vis-a-vis recent floods in Kerala and their suggestions, in the form of report to be submitted to Thiruvananthapuram Mayor, Mr. V. K. Prashanth—these can be incorporated in the Action Plan for ‘Rebuilding Kerala.’

Activities: Group discussions, painting competition, film making competition, Sadya meals etc.

Why open burning should be discouraged in Trivandrum, and other places?

Hi…I was so happy to see the view from our balcony—only natural beauty and no smoke fumes coming from between the trees.

This is a rare sight, I must tell. Our house lies beyond the Municipal range in Trivandrum, Kerala. In this area, people in stand-alone houses burn their household waste in the open.

This practice is so prevalent that it can potentially be a major air pollution issue.

Further, it is not so only in the areas outside the Municipal range. Even in the main city, this practice is followed. Even though it is an age-old practice to burn waste in the open, the issue becomes serious in today’s times as waste has a dangerous mix of wet items and plastics, among others. When burnt in open conditions, it releases gases and particles – it can adversely affect the respiratory system and contribute to global warming, respectively.

The more the practice is followed, the more implications it will have for public health as well as environment. It needs to be replaced by an alternative waste management strategy.

The question is that how can individuals be convinced to change to an eco-friendly waste management way?  The municipal corporations or gram panchayats need to step in.

Waste segregation, and thereafter, collection and disposal, is the way out. A ‘carrot and stick policy’ will help.

While the first step needs to be performed at the household level, the remaining two steps must be performed by public sector, private sector, or both.

Both, public and environmental health need to be accorded top priority.

When the national emphasis is rightly placed on “Swachh Bharat”, thanks to our PM, we need to have a “Swachh Trivandrum” as well.

Can India go the Europe way in waste management?

  • Less than 1 per cent of Swedish household waste was sent to landfill last year or any year since 2011.
  • 5 Cool Waste Management Ideas From The World That India Can Adopt
    • Meet Mr Trash Wheel From USA
    • Make Way For BigBelly And SmartBelly Bins From Australia
    • Germany Is Showing The World How To Deal With The Plastic Menace
    • Brazil Shows How To Redecorate Your House By Reusing Plastic Bottles
    • Columbia Is Giving Rewards To People For Giving Back Their Plastic Waste
  • Germany recycles more than any other country Germany has the best recycling rate in the world. Austria comes in second, followed by South Korea and Wales. All four countries manage to recycle between 52% and 56% of their municipal waste. Switzerland, in fifth place, recycles almost half of its municipal waste.
  • Plastic Ban: What India Can Learn From Other Countries Currently, India generates around 56 lakh tonnes of plastic waste annually, where Delhi alone accounts for 9,600 metric tonnes per day. Currently, cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Karwar, Tirumala, Vasco, Rajasthan, Kerala, Punjab and now Madhya Pradesh to name a few have the ban on the plastic bags in place. But, its enforcement and effective implementation is an issue.
    • France passed a ‘Plastic Ban’ law in 2016 to fight the growing problem of plastic pollution in the world which states all plastic plates, cups, and utensils will be banned by 2020. France is the first country to ban all the daily-usable products that are made of plastic. The law also follows a total ban on plastic shopping bags. The law aims at cutting the usage of plastic bags in the country by half by 2025.
    • Rwanda, a developing country in Africa is plastic bag free since 2008.
    • Sweden is following the policy of ‘No Plastic Ban, Instead More Plastic Recycling.’ There is one simple reason behind this – Sweden has world’s best recycling system. Mostly all the trash in Sweden’s system gets burned in incinerators.
    • Ireland passed a plastic bag tax in 2002. Within weeks of its implementation, there was a reduction of 94 percent in plastic bag use. And, now plastic bags are widely unacceptable there.
    • China instated a law in 2008 to deal with its growing plastic woes. China made it illegal for stores (small or big vendors) to give out plastic bags for free. End result, after two years of the law implementation, usage of plastic bags dropped by a whopping 50%.

World Environment Day (WED) 2018

Today is an important day for all environment lovers…today is WED 2018! A day to generate awareness about environmental conservation! It is the same environment that gives us air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, and security to carry on with our day to day chores.

However, in our fast-paced life, we forget or ignore that what we take as granted is increasingly coming under threat by our very own actions

We live as if there is no tomorrow. However, there is…for us and our future generation!

Celebrating WED is a way to remind ourselves of the need to live in a sustainable way.

It is not as difficult as it seems…we just need to add a few points in our daily to-do list.

  1. Refuse (or atleast reduce use of) disposable plastics, like plastic bottles, plates, cups, spoons, and carry bags.
  2. Reduce shower time…turn off taps when not in use…replace leaky taps and shower caps…save precious water!
  3. Turn off electric points when not in use…hunt for energy saving appliances, when buying new ones
  4. When throwing off an old thing or daily waste, give a serious thought to the possibility of its reuse…Consider reuse, making something out of it, donating or selling it, or otherwise, dispose it off responsibly! Best waste management mantra is…to reduce waste… in the first place!
  5. It’s time to take note of the activities that are recklessly damaging our environment. We can put collective efforts to curb those activities.

India is the global host of WED 2018. The theme, this year, is ”Beat plastic pollution!” We can do it…can’t we? Happy WED 2018!