Waste: Challenge or Opportunity

My morning walk in Salt Lake through central park shocks me. The litter created by the natural phenomenon of falling tree leaves, withered flowers as well as those left by the visitors must be a big problem for those who manage it. And the issue is a universal one. I saw a similar situation while in Pleasanton during fall. The footpaths used to be full with the fallen leaves of the trees. That must be a big challenge for the municipal authority. Can the agriculture scientists develop trees for human habitations that will not undergo fall? Alternatively can all the natural litter be collected easily and used a raw material for some other products or services required by the human beings living on the Mother Earth? The answer is only yes. The scientists and innovators must work on reusing the waste that the nature or its inhabitants create. Before deciding the use of a material and process of its assembly or manufacturing for creating the products, the scientists and technocrats must devise a way of its disassembly and reuse through cost effective recycling. It must be universally accepted too. This is the biggest challenge as well as opportunity for those who matter in creating the products and services.

Believe it, Americans are the champions of trash. On average Americans jettison over 700kg each a year of trash. For India and China, the corresponding figures are not available. But ‘by 2030, Indians will be producing twice as much as they are now; Chinese people three times as much’.
Waste if not disposed and treated effectively is not only eyesore but also becomes hazardous too. As reported, ‘in the city of Dzerzhinsk, in Russia, decades of slapdash handling of chemical waste has reduced male life expectancy to just 42 years’. Rotting waste produces methane and thus contributes to global warming.

The Economist has a special report on the waste business in this week’s issue: ‘Environmental concerns have spurred dramatic improvements in the way waste is managed in many countries. Recycling is becoming ever more common. Entrepreneurs are brimming with schemes to turn rubbish into electricity or fuel or fertilizer. Environmentalists dream of a world in which almost nothing is wasted.’

Even the plastics used for different throwaway purposes that are the biggest culprit may and must soon become biodegradable. The industry generating a lot of unmanageable and damaging waste such cement or metal industry or power plant must incorporate the effective use of the waste it generates. It requires a change of mindset.

Even in India media keeps on reporting the biomass projects for power generations. Organic wastes can and must become natural manures replacing chemical and harmful fertilizers. However, the work has not been undertaken on the scale it is necessary to save from the menace aspects of the waste.

The biggest trouble in the task will be from the global MNCs that over years have developed the products and will not like to lose the profits it generates.

Can the scientific community and the government take up the challenge and convert into opportunities to develop technologies based on using waste to create products and utilities for mass consumption.

And lastly, can every responsible citizen avoid doing what has given rise to the easy engagement for the deprived children as ragpickers or slumdogs?

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