What is Waste and why is it a Problem?
Wastes are variety of materials that are no longer required by people. We usually call this garbage. Waste is a natural by-product of any process on Earth and cannot be avoided. Nature reuses all of its by-products, with no waste in the end. What is waste for one is useful for another. For example dead leaves decompose to provide nutrients to plants and oxygen released from trees is used by us. We humans, however, have disturbed this balance by bringing in new problems such as hazardous and non-degradable wastes and even nuclear wastes into the environment. Even ‘normal’ solid waste is now a problem because there is too much of it. Studies show that on an average, each person in urban areas produces half a kilogram of garbage each day. This doesn’t include the garbage we make indirectly – through industry, agriculture and mining. Twenty per cent of Indians live in urban areas. This calculates to more than 36 million tons of garbage each year in cities alone ! India is likely to see its waste generation triple to 376,639 tonnes per day by 2025. The solution to managing this could lie in segregating the waste. Though waste generated has increased, the way we deal with the disposal of waste has not changed in over ten thousand years. We pile it and then burn it, or bury it in some out-of-the-way place where we forget about it. But today, we are faced with too much garbage and not enough places left to throw it away. Improper disposal of solid wastes has lead to ground water contamination, air pollution, health hazards etc. CLEAN-India Helps Manage Waste Better The members of CLEAN programme are made aware of the glaring (but overlooked) problem of waste in our cities. Activities and film shows have made students aware of the solid waste problem in urban areas and their role in reducing it. Issues like the ill effects of polybags, littering on our streets, excessive consumerism are all discussed and deliberated with student groups. Clean-up drives in local parks and markets are organised in which students very enthusiastically help in cleaning up and drive home the message that adults should not indulge in littering. With the objective of managing the waste locally through simple techniques, natural composting, vermicomposting, paper recycling and Reuse Society have been initiated in schools and community. Composting Composting is, in the broadest terms, the biological reduction of organic wastes to humus. Whenever a plant / animal dies, its remains are attacked by soil micro-organisms and are reduced to an earthlike substance that is beneficial for the growth of plant (roots). This process is repeated universally and continuously in every part of the world, and is a part of the wheel of life. Two methods of Composting undertaken at the school level are Vermicomposting and Natural Composting. Natural Composting In natural composting, the waste decomposes with the aid of other factors such as insects, worms and tiny microbes. This is possible in each and every school, irrespective of the amount of waste they generate. Schools that do not have their own canteens and consequently have little biodegradable waste generated can adopt this project. They can decompose all their garden waste easily by alternatively layering a pit ( 1 m deep, 1 m wide and 1 m.long, as per convenience) with the waste and soil. This form of composting is recommended particularly for those schools which have a lot of garden waste like dried leaves that can be saved from burning. The compost thus generated is used in the school lawns and gardens as a substitute for manure, thus saving the cost of fertilisers. Vermicomposting This is the process through which we can convert biodegradable waste into rich humus by using earthworms. After an earthworm ingests organic matter, the matter undergoes chemical changes and what comes out is a rich plant food. This makes our soil fertile and plants stronger. Then we need not buy chemical fertilisers. Many CLEAN-India schools, that have their own canteens and gardens have adopted this project. Hands-on-experience in vermicomposting shows students effective ways of taking care of biodegradable waste. The project not only solves the problem of solid waste to an extent and gives rich compost in return, it also helps students realize the importance of small creatures like earthworms and helps them shed their fear. In the process it brings alive the concepts learnt in class about decomposition in nature and how earthworms function. In many schools, the compost produced is also sold to the parents. Few schools like Shri Ram and Joseph and Mary in Delhi are now providing earthworms and helping people of nearby villages to initiate their own vermicomposting units. Re-Use Society A king once offered five hundred garments to a disciple of Buddha. The king asked the disciple what he would do with so many garments ? The Disciple replied : ” Oh King, many of our brothers are in rags:I am going to distribute the garments among brothers.” What will you do with the old garments ? We will make bed – covers out of them. What will you do with the old bed – covers ? We will make pillow – cases out of them. What will you do with the old pillow – cases ? We will make floor – covers out of them. What will you do with the old floor – covers ? We will use them for foot towels . What will you do with the old foot – towels ? Your highness, we will tear them into pieces, mix them with mud and use the mud to plaster the house walls. What is waste for you, is wealth for somebody else. There has been a tradition in India of finding an innovative use for every thing : – tyres, battery cases, plastic bins and what not. A similar thing is started in School which saves both the environment and money in the bargain, in addition to inculcating in students a habit of not discarding things unthinkingly. Apart from making innovative things from discarded things in the Crafts Period, two major activities are suggested to the school under the Reuse Society. The first activity is to exchange books and even notes at the beginning of each academic session. Students of a senior class give the books to the students of a junior class and, in turn, receive books from the senior section, and a chain is established throughout the school. This way a lot of paper and consequently trees can be saved. The next major activity in the Reuse Society is to donate books and outgrown clothes, toys, etc. The books / story books /comics that have been read and re-read, the clothes and shoes that have outgrown, are collected in schools and given to the less fortunate children of the society. Such collection is presented to Child Welfare organizations, slums, orphanages etc