In the time it takes you to read this brief blog, more than 14,000 tonnes of waste will be generated: that’s enough to fill the Taj Mahal in a day. More than 1.5 billion tonnes of trash will be generated this year alone. Everyday 3 million trucks worth, of garbage is untreated and disposed of by municipal authorities in an unhygienic manner leading to health issues and environmental degradation. These 3 million trucks, if laid end to end, would cover half the distance between the earth and the moon. Or to put it another way, that’s the distance you would cover if you made 15 trips between Mumbai and Los Angeles. That’s CRAZY!
There are many reasons for why we have this incredible outcome of dumping things into the ground that nurtures humanity (we will explore those reasons in another post), but after reading about the impacts of our actions, I bet you’ll want to make some small changes in your daily life.
Waste is being generated faster than other environmental pollutants, including greenhouse gases. On average, a person in India uses 20-40kg of plastic in a year. Plastic clogs the world's oceans and rivers, causing flooding in cities and solid-waste management is one of the greatest costs to municipal budgets. Think about if you let your bathroom drain or toilet get clogged over even a few weeks. You’d fix the issue immediately. Right?!
Plus, waste represents an enormous loss of resources in the form of both materials and energy. Landfills and accumulated garbage serve as a prime habitat for rodents and mosquitoes that can spread diseases. Post-consumer waste is estimated to account for almost 5% of total global GHG, while methane from landfills represents 12% of total global methane emissions.
This issue just isn’t about the environment and the impending end of days when our the atmospheric temperature surpasses a 2 degree increase. It’s about humans too. Especially in India, the waste management industry is bafflingly informal and unbelievably labor intensive.
Millions of wastepickers globally, and here in India, not only deal with extreme poverty and low social status, but also face the hazards or dangerous work. Workers more often than not, don’t wear protective gear and sift through unknown materials that include glass, medical waste, animals, toxins, chemicals etc. Throughout their lives, most wastepickers, some who started working as children, sustain injuries, illness, and diseases such as tuberculosis, scabies, asthma, respiratory infections, cuts, and animal bites.
Maybe you don’t care about waste pickers in India. But just think about what happens when plastic sits and sits and sits in a landfill. The toxins seep into the water table and find its way coming out of our water faucets. Slowly chemicals that companies put into the products they sell us, end up full circle in our homes and bodies, but in unwanted forms. I think death by slow, ignorant poisoning will be one of the worst ways to go.
But we are still living beings, and ever since I started caring about nature and the Earth, I actually felt more alive. When I started to be concerned about garbage enough to actually notice it, realizing that I was creating it and throwing it away without knowing where it was going, I found that I became a more mindful, present person. I started checking my actions and not just going with the flow.
Even though most people are happy to forget they’ve made garbage and tossed it into a landfill, there is now a trend towards starting companies in the waste management space. Even the mafia thinks garbage is great. There are logistics companies, consulting companies, upcycling companies, waste processing companies, composting companies, landfilling companies, technology companies etc. etc. There are lots of ways for people to get involved in waste management systems. But I am asking the question: why not prevent waste in the first place?
We dream of a circular economy: An economy which “is restorative and regenerative by design, and which aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value at all times, distinguishing between technical and biological cycles." And for the average person who wants to at least help make this dream a reality, leading a zero waste lifestyle can have a huge impact. If you make small changes in your purchasing habits, your kitchen, your bathroom, your bedroom, you could be saving 271.7 kgs a day.
So in this inaugural blog post, we entered on our high horse, trying to make a convincing argument for you to come back to our site and try some changes out. In our blog, we’ll explore a wide variety angles on trash but we’re also all about learning new, creative ways to make zero-waste lifestyles happen. So we’d love to hear from you and we’re excited to get started on a journey that will make living on earth less messy.