Waste generation is an integral part of ecological cycle. However, there is a vast gap in the waste generated by Urban and Rural India.
Every element of ecosystem directly or indirectly produces waste. With the advancement in human activities, inventions and discoveries, the quantum of waste generation has gone high. It has not only increased in volume but also has become more and more complex in composition which cannot be decomposed completely through natural processes.
In part consumerism is to blame for this. More so the "aspirations" associated with owning more things. We have become so used to the take-make-waste mentality that most of the products we use today come with a short lifespan.
Previously TVs used to last decades. They were made out of solid materials which were built to last. Now, we don't want to own a TV that is more than 5 years old. Cause there is new technology out there which we want to experience. So even if our current TV might be in perfect condition - our mind does wander in making plans on buying a new one.
In essence this mentality is steeped into other products we buy as well. And more so in Urban households.
What a Waste
The privilege of waste generation is what only a few people enjoy.
As we order in food from our favorite apps, engage in retail therapy and just visit the local grocery store. We generate waste because it is easy for us to do so.
The advent of technology that has made our life so much easier this pandemic is also one of the culprits - though I absolutely will never ever want to let go of online shopping! We order vegetables which comes wrapped in plastic. See the company tried the "paper packaging" route, but it was proving to be a hassle as they tore easily and all the vegetables got spoilt which was turning out to be more expensive for the company. So they went back to plastic. Cheap & best.
Now I should be going to my local supermarket, taking my own bag and not getting dumped in plastic. But as mentioned before there is a raging pandemic and I live with my parents. So yes, maybe few plastic bags here and there won't make a big difference? Maybe? I don't know.
Plus in reality, I just dispose them off. In the right bin of course and the waste segregation guy tells me, "yes ma'am, we send the plastic waste for recycling." So my conscience is clear.
But is it really? I mean do I want to know what happens post this? I am not following the truck. I don't really know where this garbage really ends up. But yes, I have seen videos on YouTube on how the plastic is recycled.
A Gap So Big
Now this ardent waste generation is a problem that is super exclusive. As in that the person generating said waste is not really having to deal with the consequences of it.
Take for e.g. a sanitary pad that is disposed off in a toilet. Despite several warnings and intimations, this is still a standard practice in some households. Getting to the root cause basically exposes our views towards menstruation and all that which will take me on a different tangent I don't want to engage in right now.
Now sometimes, this pad gets stuck in the drainage in all its plastic glory. Creating a blockage and all the yucky things I can't even think of. Who deals with this issue? Definitely not the person who disposed the said pad. Not any of their family for sure. The job falls to a marginalized daily wage earner - who might not even have the resources to buy such a product every month!
Now let's take another example. We order food once every week. The restaurant sends the food in plastic packaging. This is either sent to a landfill or incinerated. Both these activities happen at the outskirts of your city, ideally in a place where no educated citizen can complain about the stench and how it spoils their real-estate value.
People who are once again affected by this are communities who do not have the means to live within the city, with access to clean air. These individuals once again are marginalized migrant workers who do not have the bargaining power to negotiate for their rights. They however cannot grasp the concept of an app delivering the food to them in half an hour.
The Solution That Isn't
If you've come this far in the article you already know the solution. We have read the blogs on minimalist, zero-waste living. Done our part in some cases and even do a lot more to ensure we keep our waste in check.
But then supposedly it isn't enough. Supposedly even the most we do sometimes isn't enough. So what do we do?
Do it anyway.
Maybe your cousin gets inspired from your lifestyle. Maybe you dad finally stops taking plastic bags in the supermarket. Maybe your friend gives you a better idea to live a low waste lifestyle.
And we start a bigger dialogue. Companies take notice and start manufacturing products that don't have plastic in them. Researchers come with genuine alternatives. Green washing definitely increases but so does our bargaining power.
And we learn not to subject another human being to the reality of our privilege.
Thank you for reading, please share your thoughts in the comment section below.