An explanation to the garbage scenario

One of the most common question visitors have when they come to this country is why is there so much litter so much garbage on the streets. I would like to explain my point of view here. These are the reasons that i see

  1. Education: In most of the developed nations, first there was Fruits/veggies then education and then packaged food. People are more aware of the disadvantages of plastic and what does burning lead to. In India Plastic bags came but education is still happening. An example would be the “gulab jamun” guy near the hostel who recently changed from banyan tree bowls to plastic bowls. When i asked the reason he said it was due to customer complaints of earth particles in banyan tree bowls. I told him that plastic garbage is all over the city to which he told me he is not an idiot and he burns all of it at the end of the day. He thinks burning plastic eliminates it. Only education can make people more aware here.

  2. Sense of Normal: It is normal to throw things out in this country and people are used to it. I did not realize that I should not throw stuff on the street till I started living in Holland. We have seen dirty and not many of us know what clean looks like. Its same like any other wrong custom in countries which is accepted as normal.

  3. Garbage management is different in India: As we have a lot of people in this country,we can get a lot of cheap labor. Most of us throw garbage on the streets. The municipal committee employs people to clean streets and pick it up. These people then throws it in the big garbage dumping grounds in the outskirts of the city. People go throw these dumping grounds to collect and sell recyclable materials. India has one of the highest plastics recycling rates in the world (an estimated 47 percent of all plastics is recycled) .

  4. Needs/scenario is different in India than the world. We are still struggling with Poverty, Hunger, Education and other basic issues. A lot of people die because of Hunger in this country so most people are concentrating on working on the bare necessities of life and people are not much aware at all how litter can harm us

  1. A lot of garbage/waste is generated by manufacturing. Because of the price of manufacturing being high in the west, a lot of manufacturing is moved to countries like India resulting in india producing much more than it actually consumes. It does bring money to the economy but that money gets spent on other needs rather than garbage management as of now.

Is this better or worse than the west?

To start with it is a different system and comparing two very different systems like these is really hard. Each system has its pros and cons.

Cons:

  1. The garbage piles and the irresponsible behavior of municipal committees end up in garbage pilling in streets for days which leads to providing spreading grounds for mosquitos/flies and other kinds of bacteria.

  2. People who are collecting waste(ragpickers) for recycling have to go through big garbage dumps. Exposure to hazardous wastes in these dumps leads to many diseases in these people.

  3. A lot of these dumping grounds are near or in the rivers of the city making these rivers really polluted

Pros:

  1. Garbage recycling rate is high as the people involved in recycling have their livelihood dependent on the collection of recyclable material.

  2. Garbage stays in front of our eyes and not far away in a landfill making us more aware of the situation. Developed nations generate a lot more waste than developing nations but because its far away in a landfill/ocean, we are less aware of the damage caused to the environment. These oceans/landfills are just delaying the problem.

  1. The ragpickers get employment with this system. There are a lot of ragpickers who are dependent on the garbage recycling industry. The options they have is “no job” or job under hazardous conditions. No job and no money will definitely lead to death due to hunger and hazardous conditions MAY lead to diseases and death.

Looking at these facts, it doesn’t look like one system should follow the other as they both have flaws. I think the best way is to pick up good points from both. We need to be aware of how much waste we are generating and manage it well. While in the hostel, you can help by:

  1. Using water filter for refilling your bottles and throw bottles in bottle recycling.

  2. Taking bags from the kitchen when you go for shopping and throw them in same bucket

  3. Eating unpackaged natural items like fruits/vegetables rather than packed snacks.