Have you heard of death by waste?
Mismanagement of waste is causing thousands of people to die each year in India.
Today, most countries, including India, have a linear economy. A linear economy follows the ‘take-make-dispose’ mindset, where natural resources are taken, made into products and eventually thrown away. It generates too much waste and is a system which encourages over consumption with a liking for short-lived products.
With rapid population growth, there is an increasing demand for raw materials while our supplies are decreasing. At the same time, we are facing rapid urbanisation, high economic growth and industrialization. All of these factors cause higher annual waste generation: 43 million tonnes of municipal solid waste is collected yearly, out of which 11.9 million tonnes of waste is treated and 31 million tonnes is dumped untreated in landfill sites.
According to a 2016 estimate, if we do not take immediate action, India’s annual waste generated is likely to touch 387.8 million tonnes by 2030 and 543.3 million tonnes by 2050.
This will negatively affect our environment and leave our world with no resources at all. Biodiversity loss, water shortages and health issues will follow suit. In short, humans and animals will face shortage in food, water, and other resources - while also facing excess pollution and climate change.
To ensure there is enough food, water, and prosperity for us and the coming generations, we need to move towards a circular economy. A circular economy is an economic system aimed at eliminating waste. It reuses and recycles old products, prevents overconsumption, builds economic and social capital and thereby helps in solving environmental issues. It suggests innovative methods of using discarded materials, thus seeking to minimize waste.
Many organisations are actively trying to make the switch and the government is formulating policies that drive towards a circular economy. It can be a step towards sustainable growth in India – meeting consumer demand, creating jobs, and protecting our lives! Also, with this model, there will be less resource consumption, less dependency on other countries, and less negative impact on the environment leading to sustainable development.
You and I can also pitch in to make a difference. Every person can easily contribute to achieving a better place to live in.
We cannot get rid of disposables, but we can always use sustainable alternatives like reusable bags, bottles, cups, straws, etc. and avoid single use containers and utensils. We can start shopping locally to support small businesses while avoiding fast fashion, which damages the environment. Our fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds, grass clippings, and leaves can all be composted.
We can also make efforts to go back to our old traditional sustainable way of living, which was extremely sustainable. Our culture is full of sustainable practices, such as using clay utensils and pattals instead of disposables, reusing old clothes for cleaning, reducing meat consumption, and much more! There are many ways to make a change, and learning from our traditional way of life can be a great place to start!
It only takes around 3.5% of the population to create meaningful change. We have a long way to go to clean up the mess we have created, but if we all come together, we can make a difference and save our lives, and the planet!