India's Waste Management Problem
Updated: Jun 4
As India is a developing country undergoing the process of economic growth and urbanization, we are generating ever-increasing quantities of waste. Indians living in urban towns and cities generate 62 million tonnes of municipal solid waste per year.
If you wish to visualize, this is the equivalent of three million trucks filled with garbage. What is extremely concerning is that 70-75% of this waste is not treated and ends up in our oversaturated landfills.
This ineffective system of waste disposal has made waste management a pressing concern and the country is presently dealing with a landfill crisis. Many landfills such as Deonar in Mumbai continue to be used as dumping grounds despite being over-saturated.
The waste that collects in landfills pollutes our groundwater and releases the greenhouse gas methane, which is not only toxic but also flammable. In 2018, the Bhalswa landfill in Delhi caught fire and took three days to douse. Delhi is also home to the biggest landfill in the country: the Ghazipur landfill.
In 2017, a collapse of a part of the landfill led to the death of two people and in 2020 it is predicted that the landfill will grow taller than the iconic Taj Mahal.
How can the problem be solved?
Experts say that the solution to the problem is to ensure that waste segregation is conducted at the source i.e. individual households and businesses and then enters different streams like recycling, composting and resource recovery so that only the necessary waste is disposed of scientifically in sanitary landfills. This model has been successfully implemented in certain parts of India such as Indore and Ambikapur.
What can we do from our homes?
Though this is an extremely serious problem that may seem insurmountable, we can make a significant impact from the comfort of our homes. As expert advice recommends, waste segregation at the household level is essential to solving the problem. However, currently, most municipal bodies around the country do not have separate streams for waste.
Thus, even if we segregate our waste, it may end up mixing and getting dumped in landfills. In this context, composting offers an extremely effective, easy and innovative solution to this problem.
What is composting?
Composting is simply the process of breaking down organic matter such as food waste in the presence of air and water, using microorganisms and small insects present in nature.
The end product called compost is rich in readily usable plant nutrients forming a part of healthy soil. It can be used for your home garden or sprinkled in any trees or plants in your neighbourhood.
Currently, biodegradable materials make up more than 50% of municipal solid waste. Hence, composting can divert significant amounts of waste from landfills and create a huge impact on solving the problem of waste management. By segregating, recycling and composting, a family of 4 can reduce their waste from 1000 kg to less than 100 kg every year.
How can you compost at home?
Composting involves a few simple steps:
Collect food waste and dry organic matter: For compost to be created carbon and nitrogen are necessary. Nitrogen comes from food waste such as vegetable peels, fruit peels, small amounts of wasted cooked food etc. and is called green matter while carbon comes from dry organic matter likes leaves and newspaper and is called brown matter.
Choose a container: There is no specific container needed to create compost. Most often buckets are used and several containers made specifically for composting can be easily found online. It is important to remember to drill four to five holes around the container at different levels in order for air to be able to enter.
Fill the container with collected materials: To start creating the compost, first line the bottom with a layer of soil. Then start adding the brown and green matter in alternating layers as you generate food waste. For instance, whenever you generate new food waste add it to your compost bin and then add a similar amount of dry organic matter.
These three steps set off the process of creating compost.
It is important to make sure the pile remains moist and to use a rake and turn it every few days to provide aeration. Within 2-3 months the pile start forming compost that is dry, dark brown and crumbly and smelling of earth.
Being quarantined at home there is no better time to take up this easy activity that will have a significant contribution in helping the environment. Even if you do not have a garden at home, once the compost is ready it can be sprinkled on trees or plants throughout your neighbourhood!