Waste it not!

Goa burning plastic sign

In my last blog post for this project I would like to talk about an issue very close to my heart: waste management.  I cannot understand how our society got used to produce so much waste and how so much of it still ending up in landfill, when so much technology to deal with our rubbish in a more sustainable and economically advantageous way is available.

I am lucky enough to live in Bristol, UK, where I have options to buy groceries without packages (including places where I can bring my own reusable containers).  Furthermore, most packaging that I cannot avoid is collected from outside my door weekly for recycling, together with my food waste.  The latter is used to generate biogas and fertilizer by a natural process called anaerobic digestion and every tonne of food waste diverted from landfill avoids 0.6 tonnes of CO2 going into the atmosphere (Bristol Waste, 2020).  The waste management in Bristol is undertaken by Bristol Waste, a local company linked to the local authority.  They created a highly informative website where citizens can find most information they need.  Below is the example of an animation explaining in a humorous way how to recycle in Bristol.  The voice over is from a local person emphasizing the famous (or infamous) Bristol accent and local slang.

Nevertheless, even with such a convenient way to dispose of our waste, I still have friends who, despite being fully aware of the environmental issues we are facing, simply do no segregate their waste for collection for ‘lack of time’.  Therefore I am not surprised about the grandiosity of the waste problem in other places without such an efficient waste management structure.

In my recent visit to India I have experienced this first hand. The beach near where I was staying had rubbish everywhere and the quantity of plastic was shocking.  The beach huts were still offering plastic straws, which is virtually no longer socially acceptable in the UK.   To make matters worse, the way some locals deal with the waste is simply burning it all from time to time, including all the plastic, as I have witness a couple of times.  They seem oblivious to all toxic fumes being released to the air we breath or the fact that they can face a fine up to ₹50,000 (Msn, 2019).  I have being informed by a tourist who has been to Goa a number of times that the rubbish which is not burned apparently ends up in the sea during the Monsoon period from May,

On the positive side (or in a better late than never approach), it seems that the Goa Government is trying to keep up with India’s commitment to eliminate all single-use plastic products by 2022.  Although not yet visible, it seems that since January this year some plastic has already been banned in a phased approach to eventually ban all single used plastic (The times of India, 2019).  My intention was to contact the Goa local government to ask whether initiatives to promote awareness of the ban, such as social media campaigns, are in place.  Also, whether an app has/is being created to facilitate small community groups (or even citizens) denouncing perpetrators.  Unfortunately my trip was cut short due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

I would like to end in a positive note sharing this initiate as an example which shows that sometimes we do not need to wait for the authorities to act in order to tackle a problem.  Sometimes a little lateral thinking it’s all what is needed to make profound improvements to our community:

References:

Bristol Waste, 2020 Available at: https://www.bristolwastecompany.co.uk/learn-more-home/where-your-recycling-goes-geneco/

Msn, 2019 Available at: https://www.msn.com/en-in/travel/news/beach-holiday-destination-goa-set-to-junk-plastic-for-good/ar-AAFtGpN

The times of India, 2019 Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/goa-to-ban-pet-bottles-below-500ml-sachets-from-january/articleshow/72046669.cms

One comment

  1. Victoria

    Hi Andrea!
    Interesting post on waste management! As you were saying, even in your city that most definitely has a top notch system to handle waste, some of your friends still do not bother to use it. Your culture chock with the waste system in Goa is familiar to me, Iv’e been in similar situations in Latin America. I was appalled when I saw my idol (coordinator of feminist organization) throwing trash out the window of the car. And the people burning their own trash. But in this case I believe it is about knowledge, customs and habits that die slowly. It is also about the government not offering a system that works, and there is also the issue of the people living out of the materials they can find in the trash (metal, plastic etc.) What are they going to do if their income is taken away from them? So the question is complicated. But the subject is very interesting! Thanks for a post that made me recognize myself and reflect on the matter!

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