16.3 Solid Wastes

Solid wastes refer to everything that goes out in trash. Municipal solid wastes are wastes from homes, offices, stores, schools, hospitals, etc., that are collected and disposed by the municipality. The municipal solid wastes generally comprise paper, food wastes, plastics, glass, metals, rubber, leather, textile, etc.

Burning reduces the volume of the wastes, although it is generally not burnt to completion and open dumps often serve as the breeding ground for rats and flies. Sanitary landfills were adopted as the substitute for open-burning dumps. In a sanitary landfill, wastes are dumped in a depression or trench after compaction, and covered with dirt everyday.

If you live in a town or city, do you know where the nearest landfill site is? Landfills are also not really much of a solution since the amount of garbage generation specially in the metros has increased so much that these sites are getting filled too. Also there is danger of seepage of chemicals, etc., from these landfills polluting the underground water resources.

A solution to all this can only be in human beings becoming more sensitive to these environment issues. All waste that we generate can be categorised into three types –

  • bio-degradable,
  • recyclable and
  • the non-biodegradable.

It is important that all garbage generated is sorted. What can be reused or recycled separated out; our kabadiwallahs and rag-pickers do a great job of separation of materials for recycling. The biodegradable materials can be put into deep pits in the ground and be left for natural breakdown.

That leaves only the non-biodegradable to be disposed off. The need to reduce our garbage generation should be a prime goal, instead, we are increasing the use of non-biodegradable products.

Just pick any readymade packet of any ‘good quality’ eatable, say a biscuit packet, and study the packaging – do you see the number of protective layers used? Note that atleast one layer is of plastic. We have started packaging even our daily use products like milk and water in polybags!!

In cities, fruits and vegetables can be bought packed in beautiful polysterene and plastic packaging – we pay so much and what do we do? Contribute heavily to environmental pollution.

State Governments across the country are trying to push for reduction in use of plastics and use of eco-friendly packaging. We can do our bit by carrying cloth or other natural fibre carry-bags when we go shopping and by refusing polythene bags.


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